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Vitamins & Minerals: The Reality of Supplementation

* the opinions expressed are those of the author and not Nutrition Ink.

It seems that each year more and more individuals are taking multivitamin and mineral (MVM) supplements. Recent estimates show nearly one-third of all Americans are taking multivitamins and mineral supplements. (1,2). Although an almost $14 billion dollar industry, the financial success of MVM’s masks their actual efficacy to provide any substantial health benefits. In fact, the industry is not held to any notable standard or regulatory definition for MVM’s, and thus may vary widely in their composition and levels of vitamins and minerals—some of which can, when combined with an individual’s regular food intake, exceed the tolerable upper intake level and pose adverse health effects (3). Nevertheless, there is still some justification to taking MVM’s, such as their ability to aid those who cannot obtain certain vitamins and/or minerals through diet alone (4).

So, should people continue to take their one-per- day pill? For the vast majority: no. When it comes down to it, a balanced diet with an assortment of fruits and vegetables can take care of the body’s needs. Only specific population groups that cannot typically meet their vitamin and mineral requirements with proper nutrition—whether just B12 for vegetarians/vegans, or a wider assortment for those with impaired digestion and absorption—should take MVM’s into serious consideration.


  1. NIH State-of-the-Science Panel. National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science conference statement: multivitamin/mineral supplements and chronic diseaseprevention. Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 85:257S-264S.

  2. Bailey RL, Gahche JJ, Lentino CV, Dwyer JT, Engel JS, Thomas PR, et al. Dietary supplement use in the United States: 2003-2006. J Nutr 2011;141:261-266.

  3. Mulholland CA, Benford DJ. What is known about the safety of multivitamin- multimineral supplements for the generally healthy population? Theoretical basisfor harm. Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 85:318S-322S.

  4. Otten JJ, Hellwig JP, Meyers LD. Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guideto Nutrient Requirements. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.2006.

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