Are Multivitamin Supplements Worth It?

Multivitamin supplements are an easy and convenient way to fill the nutritional holes of a poor diet. They generally contain a blend of essential vitamins and minerals, to which antioxidants, amino acids or fatty acids are sometimes added. These supplements are effective solutions for health conditions caused by malnutrition. However, the benefits of regular use by healthy people raise doubts among specialists. Several systematic reviews have failed to determine significant health benefits from this type of supplementation in the general population. There are, however, some arguments in favor of the use of multivitamins, and these arguments show that it’s not only people with specific needs that can benefit from these supplements.

One of the strongest cases for multivitamin supplementation is the simple fact that the normal diets of many people fail to fulfill all the nutritional needs of the body. Many are not too concerned or simply don’t have the time to control the exact nutritional profile of what they eat on a daily basis. Furthermore, pesticides and other agents used during the cultivation and processing of food, deplete the nutritional values of the final products in ways that many people don’t realize. Consequently, a nutritional gap of an incomplete diet may be extended over a long period and progressively lead to impaired health. It is estimated that about 2 billion people are zinc deficient, for example.

The nutritionally compromised eating habits of American society were scientifically documented in a 3-year-long study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2014. Researchers found that a large part of the population had an intake of vitamins and minerals below the recommended daily allowance. This was particularly true for vitamin A, D and E, calcium and magnesium. The study showed that only a very small percentage of the population met or surpassed the recommended daily allowance for all essential nutrients despite the fact that 51% of Americans was already on multivitamin supplements at the time.

Vitamin D is in fact one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide. This vitamin is necessary to facilitate the dietary absorption of essential minerals like phosphate, zinc or calcium. It is especially important in the metabolism of calcium. Poor calcium metabolism by the body is at the base of conditions like osteoporosis, hypocalcaemia, osteomalacia or rickets. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and depressive symptoms have been linked to low vitamin D, too. Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids. These compounds are generally synthesized by the body through skin exposure to sunlight. This mechanism is often compromised by a sedentary lifestyle. Vitamin D may also be acquired through dietary sources. Dietary supplementation use would be particularly useful to sedentary people and to dark-skinned people living in non-sunny climates.