Vitamins and minerals: why you need them and where to find them.
Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients—because acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body. They help shore up bones, heal wounds, and bolster your immune system. They also convert food into energy, and repair cellular damage. Vitamins help your body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 vitamins—vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate).
Vitamins have different jobs—helping you resist infections, keeping your nerves healthy, and helping your body get energy from food or your blood to clot properly. By following the Dietary Guidelines, you will get enough of most of these vitamins from food. Minerals also help your body function. Some minerals, like iodine and fluoride, are only needed in very small quantities. Others, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are needed in larger amounts. As with vitamins, if you eat a varied diet, you will probably get enough of most minerals.
Most individuals can get all of the necessary vitamins and minerals through a healthy eating pattern of nutrient-dense foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 provides recommendations for specific populations, including women who are or may become pregnant, women who breastfeed, and people ages 50 and over.
Taking an MVM increases overall nutrient intake and helps some people get the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals when they can’t or don’t get them from food alone. But taking an MVM can also raise the chances of getting too much of some nutrients, like iron, vitamin A, zinc, niacin, and folate/folic acid, especially when a person takes more than a basic, once-daily product that provides one hundred percent of the Daily Value (DV) of nutrients.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which was led by NIH’s National Eye Institute and concluded in 2001, showed that daily high doses of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and the minerals zinc and copper—called the AREDS formulation—can help slow the progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a blinding eye disease.
Data from the later AREDS2 study showed that removing beta-carotene from the AREDS formulation didn’t lessen its protective effect against developing advanced AMD. AREDS2 also showed that neither omega-3 fatty acids nor lutein/zeaxanthin, when added to the original AREDS formulation, affected the need for cataract surgery.
There’s no standard or regulatory definition for MVMs, or any dietary supplement, as to what nutrients they must contain or at what levels. Manufacturers choose which vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients, as well as their amounts, to include in their products. Simply stated, dietary supplements aren’t required to be standardized in the United States. However, they are required to bear a Supplement Facts label and ingredient list describing what’s in the product.
Read the Supplement Facts label to identify MVMs in your supplement product. Be sure to check the percent daily value (%DV) to see what proportion of your daily allotment you’re getting.
People with healthier diets and lifestyles are more likely to take dietary supplements, making it hard to identify any benefits from their use. There’s no convincing evidence that MVMs help prevent chronic disease.