Written by Emily Majorkiewicz
If you’ve ever been inside a grocery or drugstore, you have probably seen an aisle dedicated to vitamins and supplements. Some bottles claim to cure an ailment, such as insomnia or low energy, while others say they will provide you with all of your necessary daily nutrients. While it would be wonderful to have such a miracle pill that provides you with the proper amounts of every vitamin you need in a day, are these supplements really as effective as advertised?
The answer depends. Multivitamin supplements, designed to contain daily value levels of most vitamins and minerals, are ingested every day by one-third of the American population. These supplements are often produced with varying levels of nutrients and are intended for a specific consumer base, such as men, women, children, and seniors. The ingestion of these supplements is meant to fill in the nutritional blanks that are still present when a certain type of food is absent from the daily diet. Although multivitamins do increase nutrient intake, this does not necessarily mean that they can compensate for an insufficient diet . In fact, multivitamins may contain a level of nutrients that exceeds and even surpasses the recommended daily value. In a study that examined a group of individuals’ diets and multivitamin intake, it was discovered that the nutrient gain of most of the multivitamin consumers had only improved by 8% . Around 70% of those who regularly took multivitamins had reached their recommended daily vitamin levels from food intake alone. Children that regularly consumed vitamin supplements were also found to be more likely to exceed their daily-recommended values of vitamin A and zinc in particular . Because multivitamins are manufactured generally, they are not targeted to an individual’s specific nutritional needs. They would be most effective if they catered to specific dietary inadequacies .
Overall, studies involving the effects of multivitamins on different aspects of health have produced variable results. On one hand, there is data demonstrating that multivitamins intake combined with zinc do aid in children’s growth, while other studies have found that multivitamins are not significantly tied to improving health or blood pressure [2,5]. Across all studies, these results seem to be selective for improving the intake of particular types of nutrients, such as vitamins A, E, and zinc. Although supplements may provide the remaining amount of nutrients needed for the daily diet, you shouldn’t rely on a pill to keep you healthy. It is important to remember that food intake and exercise are far greater and more valuable contributors to health.
1. Ahluwalia, N., Herrick, K.A., Rossen, L.M., Rhodes, D., Kit, B., Moshfegh, A., Dodd, K.W. Usual nutrient intakes of US infants and toddlers generally meet or exceed Dietary Reference Intakes: findings from NHANES 2009-2012 (2016). Am J Clin Nutr. 104(4):1167-1174.
2. Harris, E., Rowsell, R., Pipingas, A., Macpherson, H. No effect of multivitamin supplementation on central blood pressure in healthy older people: A randomized controlled trial (2016). Atherosclerosis. 246:236-242.
3. "Multivitamin/mineral Supplements." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 8 July 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.
4. Murphy, S.P., White, K.K., Park, S.Y., Sharma, S. Multivitamin-multimineral supplements’ effect on total nutrient intake (2007). Am J Clin Nutri. 85(1): 280S-284S.
5. Rerksuppaphol, S., Rerksuppaphol, L. Effect of zinc plus multivitamin supplementation on growth in school children (2016). Pediatr Int. 58(11): 1193-1199.
6. Rosenberg I.H. Challenges and opportunities in the translation of the science of vitamins (2007). Am J Clin Nutr. 85:325S-327S.