Why are vitamins and minerals important?
What about multivitamins? Can they assist us with our general health?
Multivitamins may be of some use to populations with low nutrient intake levels. As reported by Murphy, White and Park (2007) the use of multivitamin-multimineral supplements can help increase the likelihood of users reaching an adequate level of micronutrients. However this same article also says that multivitamin users are more likely to eat well and do other things to maintain health anyway.
Evidence of increased nutrient intake from a multivitamin however isn’t evidence of health benefits. Fortmann and colleagues (2013) reviewed trial evidence and concluded that “there was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.” It is important to note here that most studies investigating vitamins use synthetic versions. Therefore the importance of natural vitamins on general health cannot be confused with the conclusion from these studies.
“The literature on contaminants that are found in multivitamins is alarming: heavy metals, anti-doping agents and microbes, to name few.” (Myers 2015)
“This message is especially true for the general population with no clear evidence of micronutrient deﬁciencies, who represent most supplement users”.
(Guallar and Co 2013)
Potential harmful effects of multivitamins
Variations in vitamins and the dose of each are huge within the multivitamin industry. In another study by Bailey and Collegues (2012) they report that “folic acid and vitamins A, B-6, and C,” were recorded above the Tolerable Upper Intake Level.
When good health relies on the homeostasis state of the body, then causing imbalances in the form of excessive micronutrients can’t be good. Unlike excess water-soluble vitamins, which the body can more easily eliminate, large amounts of fat-soluble vitamin supplements (vitamins A, D, E, and K) can build up in your body and may cause harmful effects.
There is sufficient evidence to advise against the routine use of multivitamins for the general population.
Concerns about the quality of the multivitamins for sale
If we as health-conscience consumers are concerned about the quality of our foods and trusting how it is produced without the use of chemicals and toxins; then it stands to reason we need to be concerned about what we put on our skin and in our mouths including supplements.
Some multivitamins ingredients, the manufacturing process used to make them, and contaminants found in them is caused for concern...
Chewable and liquid multivitamins (usually marketed for children) can also contain sweeteners, dyes, flavourings, preservatives, stabilizers, and fillers. Some of which can have adverse effects. A concern is that often complete information about all excipients used in the multivitamins is not readily available. For example, the ingredients used to make the gel capsules that hold the liquid supplements are often not included in the ingredient list.
So when you are purchasing and consuming a multivitamin, do you really know what you are putting into your body?
But doesn’t certain supplements help with certain health conditions?
Since Vitamin B12 is almost exclusively found in animal based foods, a vitamin B12 supplement can be beneficial for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
However the use of supplements and the required dose levels for specific conditions need to be tailored for each individual for optimum outcomes. As Mulholland and Benford (2007) state “the safe intake [levels] may not be the same for all population groups and life stages” Determining which supplement is needed and the required dose would warrant medical advice and supervision. The emerging Nutrigenomic testing will be able to further assist with this process more accurately.
The elaborate marketing by the supplement industry is yet another example of dollars before health and the thinking that technology can out do Mother Nature.
The healthiest approach is to obtain your vitamins from your food – not from supplements. Save your money on multivitamins and spend it on organic vegetables and fruits.
- The Guardian 2015. ‘Vitamins take Australia’.
- Wikipedia 2015 ‘Vitamin’.
- Murphy SP, White KK, Park SY, Sharma S: Multivitamin-multimineral supplements’ effect on total nutrient (2007) intake. Am J Clin Nutr 2007, 85(1):280S–284S.
- Fortmann SP, Burda BU, Senger CA, Lin JS, Whitlock EP. Vitamin and mineral supplements in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: an updated systematic evidence review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2013) Ann Intern Med. 2013; 159:824-34.
- Bailey RL, Fulgoni VL 3rd, Keast DR, Dwyer JT: Examination of vitamin intakes among US adults by dietary supplement use. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012, 112(5):657–663.
- Guallar E., Stranges S., Mulrow C., Appel L.J. & Miller E.R. (2013). Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements, Annals of Internal Medicine, 159 (12) 850-851. DOI: 10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00011
- Snyder SA1, Pleus RC, Vanderford BJ, Holady JC. Perchlorate and chlorate in dietary supplements and flavor enhancing ingredients. (2006) Anal Chim Acta. 2006 May 10;567(1):26-32. Epub 2006 Mar 16.
- Dr Steve Myers (2015) Module 3, Lesson 1: Disruption of the Human Intelligence, Changing Habits Education.
- Kumar A1, Aitas AT, Hunter AG, Beaman DC. Sweeteners, dyes, and other excipients in vitamin and mineral preparations. (1996) Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1996 Sep;35(9):443-50.
- Scott Gavura (2011) The benefits and risks of folic acid supplementation. Science-Based Medicine. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-benefits-and-risks-of-folic-acid-supplementation/
- Mulholland CA1, Benford DJ. (2007)What is known about the safety of multivitamin-multimineral supplements for the generally healthy population? Theoretical basis for harm. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):318S-322S.