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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Pills / vitamins woman

Confused about Using Supplements? Don’t Be. Vitamins are Essential

By Michael McBurney

A week after making New Year’s resolutions, some of us are may be reflecting upon our ability to maintain our resolutions. National Public Radio aired an insightful segment “Can Psychology Teach Us How to Stick To New Year’s Resolutions” that might help us change our behavior.

For encouragement, listen to pharmacist Bryan Scott in an interview with 41 NBC (WMGT) from Macon, Georgia. Dietary supplements are important sources of vitamins, minerals and omega-3 for many.

The newly released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans highlight the fact most Americans fail to consume recommended amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and choline. Count them: 9 nutrients with dietary intake recommendations based upon sex, age and physiological state (pregnancy and lactation), If you include iron, often a shortfall nutrient for menstruating females, that makes 10 shortfall nutrients. If you include EPA and DHA, omega-3 which are needed to maintain the brain, eye, and cardiovascular system but the Institute of Medicine has not reviewed to date, the total count of missing essential nutrients is 12!

Our commitment to improving nutrition isn’t helped by media claims that vitamins are a waste of money . Especially when the story blends weight-loss supplements with multivitamin-mineral supplements. There is a BIG difference between using dietary supplements to obtain essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA) and supplements purported to alter metabolism and increase weight loss. For information on the latter, see the FDA website article “Beware of Products Promising Miracle Weight Loss”.

Most adults in the US use a multivitamin-mineral supplement. Nutrient supplements and fortified foods and beverages are important nutrient source. For evidence, read the citations listed below. If you have a nutrition-related new year’s resolution, keep trying. Supplements can help fill the gap for short-fall nutrients, especially the vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s are essential nutrients.

Main Citation

US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

Other Citations

Bailey RL, Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Dwyer JT. Examination of vitamin intakes among US adults by dietary supplement use. 2012 J Acad Nutr Diet doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.01.026

Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? 2011 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142257

Hopkins SM, Gibney MJ, Nugent AP, McNulty H, Molloy Am, Scott JM, Flynn A, Strain JJ, Ward M, Walton J, McNulty BA. Impact of voluntary fortification and supplement use on dietary intakes and biomarker status of folate and vitamin B12 in Irish adults. 2015 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.107151

Black LJ, Walton J, Flynn A, Kiely M. Adequacy of vitamin D intakes in children and teenagers from the base diet, fortified foods and supplements. 2014 Public Health Nutr doi: 10.1017/S1368980013000359