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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Dietary Supplements help Improve Vitamin Status

By Michael McBurney

It isn’t unusual to see headlines suggesting multivitamins are a waste of money. People are sometimes told that vitamins present in supplements are not absorbed into the body. Today’s main citation puts that misperception to rest.

Bariatric surgery is a surgical procedure increasingly being used to treat morbid obesity. Surgically bypassing the stomach and its acidic secretions impairs digestion and increases the risk of micronutrient deficiency. Aaseth and colleagues assessed dietary supplement usage and serum vitamin concentrations in 443 patients for 5 years following bypass surgery. Use of multivitamin, calcium/vitamin D and vitamin B12 supplements increased from 1-9% of patients before surgery to ~80% at year 1, then usage dropped off by 5 years (52-83%).

But this is the main story: serum concentrations of vitamins B, B6, B12, folic acid, C and D were significantly higher in vitamin supplement users (vs no supplement use) at both 1 and 5 years (Table 4). In this cohort, 163 patients were found to have vitamin concentrations below normal reference levels and advised to use supplements.

The authors write, “At the next follow-up visit (after patients had been recommended to change their supplementation regime), vitamin concentrations were within the normal reference range in 140 of 163 cases (85.9%).” This paper provides unequivocal evidence that vitamins present in supplement form are absorbed, even from the intestinal tract of individuals with reduced digestive and absorptive capacity.

Dietary supplementation is an effective means to obtain essential vitamins and minerals. Controversial headlines may help attract readers (increasing media income) but seductive leads don’t equate with good nutritional advice. Since vitamin supplementation increases serum vitamin levels in bariatric patients with compromised digestive capabilities, it is without question that vitamins would be absorbed from supplements in persons with an intact intestine.

Millions of Americans have inadequate intakes of vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat. Choosing to eat fortified foods and use multivitamin supplements can help provide insurance. Today’s main citation provides proof that vitamins in dietary supplements are absorbed into the body.

Main Citation

Aaseth E, Fagerland MW, Aas A-M, Hewitt S, Risstad H, Kristinsson J, Bohmer T, Mala T, Aasheim ET. Vitamin concentrations 5 years after gastric bypass. 2015 EJCN doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.82

Other Citations

Sesso HD, Christen WG, Bubes V, Smith JP, MacFadyen J, Schvartz M, Manson JE, Glynn RJ, Buring JE, Gaziano JM. Multivitamins in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in men: The Physicians’ Health Study II randomized controlled trial. 2012 JAMA doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.14805

Bailey RL et al. Multivitamin-Mineral use is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality among women in the United States.  J Nutr 2015 doi:10.3945/jn.114.204743

Wallace TC, McBurney M, Fulgoni VL. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-2010. 2014 J Am Coll Nutr doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.846806