The Importance of Supplements
The case is wide open on whether or not a multivitamin/mineral supplement should be taken by most people to help obtain needed micronutrients. While rumors have been spreading around claims that “the case is closed” on vitamin and mineral supplements being an ineffective waste researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University along with three other institutions maintain that supplements can address certain dietary needs for micronutrients.
Tuesday, a correspondence is to be published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, that these researchers state a position on these types of dietary supplements are indeed filling nutritional gaps, helping to improve general health and might even contribute to the prevention of chronic disease—stating that at the least the use of these supplements will not cause harm and the value is worth the pennies per day in potential health benefits.
In the same publication last year, and argument was made stating that dietary supplements are unnecessary, and it received widespread publicity. The statement was authored by nutrition experts from OSU, the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Tufts University and the Harvard School of Public Health.
While a balanced and nutrient-rich diet is the best way to gain the most benefits from nutrition, the fact is that many Americans have a diet absent of nutrients and micronutrients, filled with empty calories. The result is that the majority of Americans are not getting enough vitamins and minerals that a healthy body needs.
“It’s naïve to ignore the fact that most people have micronutrient inadequacies, and wrong to condemn a daily supplement that could cover these nutritional gaps safely and at low cost,” said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute, and a biochemist in the OSU College of Science.
“There’s strong evidence that a multivitamin/mineral supplement supports normal functioning of the body and helps improve overall health, and may even help lower chronic disease risk,” said Frei. “It’s irresponsible to ignore decades of nutrition research and tell the people of the United States they have no need for a supplement that could be so helpful, and costs as little as $1 a month.”
Frei also stated that yes, it is important for individuals with a poor diet to improve on it, but taking supplements that could help fill a nutritional need does not negate one over the other. “The two are not mutually exclusive,” he said.
Among the points the researchers made in their commentary:
It is well-known that the majority Americans do not meet all of the guidelines for dietary intake of vitamins and minerals. For instance, more than 93 percent of adults in the U.S. do not get the estimated requirement of dietary vitamins D and E, and 61 percent are not getting enough magnesium. About 50 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin A and calcium. Specific subpopulations are hit the hardest with a critical nutritional gap in micronutrients such as older adults, African Americans and persons who are obese.
There have been remote concerns about “increased mortality” from vitamin A and E supplements, which have been based on excessive overdose of the supplements, far beyond the amount available in a multivitamin. What is the value of improved nutrition—this is the real question—and the answer is that it’s wide-ranging and positive. Normal cell and tissue function, regulated metabolism, growth and development are all harmonized through micronutrients. A supplement that can help provide nutrition missing through a nutrient-compromised diet can help people experience and maintain a healthier life overall.
While specific vitamin and mineral deficiency diseases including scurvy or rickets are very rare in the U.S. thanks to improved diet and fortified foods, certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies are still a major issue in the developing world. Vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc are all in short supply in less developed areas. More than 650,000 children under the age of five die globally every year from deficiency in vitamin A, according to the World Health Organization.
The researchers wrote in their conclusion that to “label multivitamin and mineral supplements useless, harmful and a waste of money is wrong.”