Should I take a Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement or Not? 4 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself?

Should I take a Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement or Not? What are the 4 Essential Questions to ask yourself?


Is taking a multivitamin mineral supplement worth it or does it just create expensive urine? It is not a simple question to answer and there may not be one clear answer. You are certainly going to hear opinions one way or the other, from many sources. Supplements companies, internet sites, scientific journals all have their own take. This topic was recently covered in an article in the November 2016 issue of Nutrition Action Newsletter. This article will discuss topics from the Nutrition Action Newsletter article, info from other sources and my own input.

Taking a supplement is a personal decision, when deciding to take one or not ask yourself these four questions.

1) What are my specific nutritional needs? Everyone is unique and the need for vitamins will depend on factors such as your age and lifestyle, digestive function, activity level or lack of it, Dietary restrictions allergies or dietary programs you follow such as vegetarian or vegan. Michael Pollan (author of Food Rules and other books) mentions the term “Nutritionism” – the idea that the nutritional value of a food is the sum of all its individual nutrients, vitamins, and other components. He argues that a food’s nutritional value is “more than the sum of its parts.” It is important to keep a balance between a varied diet and taking targeted nutrients For more info check my prior articles “Eating your way over the rainbow” and “Organic vs Non Organic” Finally your nutritional needs will be affected by specific medical conditions, and medications you may be taking.

2) Are there any studies that show vitamins and or minerals offer health benefits, or not?

3) Are there any risks to taking multivitamin mineral supplements?

4) Does it matter which supplement I buy and where I buy my them?vitamin-burger

What are my specific nutritional needs?

In the Nutrition Action Newsletter article Howard Sesso who helped run a large clinical trial of multivitamins in men said. ” Multivitamins can provide a safety net for people who are eating reasonably well but might not be sure they are getting all the recommended levels of essential vitamins and minerals.” In particular many Americans get too little vitamin D from food or reduced exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that can actually be created in the body. Those of us fortunate enough to live here in San Diego, it is more common to get sun exposure, if you are someone that is active outdoors.

Also as we get older supplementation can become more important. “Our calorie needs tend to decrease as we enter our 60’s and 70’s” explains Sesso. “Our appetite is not the same as it was, we eat less, and may not be getting the essential nutrients we need.” For example, vitamin B12 deficiency is of concern among older adults. After age 50, there is less stomach acid secreted, which is needed to absorb B12 from food. (but acid is not needed to absorb B12 from supplements). Most people are not in danger or a vitamin or mineral deficiency, but may not know if they are close to that point. “For many of us a multivitamin mineral adds an extra layer of security to ensure we get at least minimum levels of essential vitamins and minerals to avoid deficiency or insufficiency.”

Are there any studies that show vitamins and or minerals offer health benefits, or not?

Before discussing studies, I just want to say “always be weary of studies performed by the companies that manufacture, sell or promote a particular product.” When it comes to studies the Physician’s Health Study II Sesso and colleagues randomly assigned over 14,000 men aged 50 and over to take a daily multivitamin mineral supplement or a placebo. After 11 years the supplement takers had an 8 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer and 9 percent lower risk of cataracts than the placebo takers. However considering other factors the supplement takers were just as likely to have heart attacks or strokes, memory loss or other cognitive decline or to die during the study. Does that mean that supplements will not reduce the occurrence of those conditions, not necessarily. Just not the supplements taken in this study.

As a side note this article is not discussing healthy fats or more specifically Omega 3 fatty acids including EPA DHA, which can affect inflammation levels in the body, neurologic and brain health but that is the subject for another article.

There is a new clinical trial on women aged 65 or older and men 60 or older that should provide more information by 2020. But the question is do we want to wait that long to decide to take a multivitamin mineral supplement? You may find other studies such as observational studies which are different than clinical trials, instead of having control or placebo groups they observe people that have a particular thing in common such as taking vitamin mineral supplements. However they may leave out other factors such as smoking or exercise and can not adjust for other factors they don’t know about. Michael Pollan brings up the idea that people who take supplements also tend to do other things to improve their health.

As the latest study hits the news or internet, it is important to critically consider the study. Does it really prove or disprove what the media claims it does? Don’t through out all your supplements or rush out to buy the latest greatest thing, remember how it fits into the big picture.

Are there any Risks to taking multivitamin mineral supplements?

One of the main things to consider is which vitamins are fat soluble and can accumulate in organs and fat cells, such as A, D E and K. In addition minerals such as Calcium in excess can increase the risk of kidney stones. Be careful when you consider taking any supplement that contains over 100% of the recommended amount, especially when they are fat soluble. Other factors such as other medications you take or health conditions you have, should be considered.

Does it matter which supplement I buy and where I buy my supplements?

Does the product you buy have an independent assay to verify that the contents of the capsule match the label? If they discuss any studies are they one that financed any studies they quote about their product or the research they reference independent? Do they make a lot of claims of health benefits from their product? If you have specific food allergies, dietary restrictions or are concerned about fillers and additives choose a source that specifically addresses those issues.

You may choose to buy your supplements from your health care provider, for my patients I review more detailed information about their specific history to help identify their specific nutritional needs.

At Johnson Chiropractic in Mira Mesa we carry a selection of multivitamin mineral supplements, in addition to specific nutrients targeted for specific goals. The company who provides our Multivitamin Mineral supplement and other products products we carry are independently tested to validate that the capsules actually contain what is listed on the label. That is something you should look for in any supplement you consider purchasing. That is not always true when you buy from stores with names ending in -zon -co or -mart.

In Conclusion


So have I answered the question “Should I take a Multivitamin Mineral Supplement?” Well by now you may have realized there is no single answer, it is an individual choice. As for myself, I choose to take one as kind of a back up plan or insurance policy.

Is taking a nutritional supplement going to perform miracles and make up for sedentary lifestyle and the SAD (Standard American Diet)? No, not completely. Keep in mind that taking nutritional supplements, regular chiropractic examination and treatment, exercise, stress management, and face to face interaction with others (sorry facebook and instagram is not enough) are all part of a program of investing in your health now instead of paying for your sickness later.

Stay tuned for more information on how to read the label on your multivitamin mineral supplements and what to look for. Use the reply box below to let me know if you have any questions or comments or any topics you would like to see in future articles

Dr Bob

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