While most nutrition experts agree that a balanced and nutritious diet is the best way to obtain needed nutrients, some researchers point out that many Americans have a less-than-perfect diet — long on calories and short on nutrients — and the vast majority are not getting enough of several important vitamins and minerals.
“It’s naïve to ignore the fact that most people have micronutrient inadequacies, and wrong to condemn a daily supplement that could cover these nutritional gaps safely and at low cost,” said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute, and a biochemist in the OSU College of Science.
“There’s strong evidence that a multivitamin/mineral supplement supports normal functioning of the body and helps improve overall health, and may even help lower chronic disease risk,” Frei said. “It’s irresponsible to ignore decades of nutrition research and tell the people of the United States they have no need for a supplement that could be so helpful, and costs as little as $1 a month.
“And if they have a poor diet, people should try to improve that as well,” he said. “The two are not mutually exclusive.”
Among the points the researchers made in their commentary:
- The vast majority of people in the United States do not meet all of the guidelines for dietary intake of vitamins and minerals.
- More than 93 percent of adults in the U.S. do not get the estimated average requirement of vitamins D and E from their diet; 61 percent not enough magnesium; and 50 percent not enough vitamin A and calcium.
- Many subpopulations have even more critical needs for micronutrients, including older adults, African Americans, obese persons and some people who are ill or injured.
- Concerns about “increased mortality” from supplements of vitamins A and E have been based on extremely high use through supplements far beyond the amount available in a multivitamin, and in the case of vitamin E largely refuted by comprehensive meta-analyses.
The value of proper nutrition, on the other hand, is wide-ranging and positive. Micronutrients maintain normal cell and tissue function, metabolism, growth and development. A supplement that helps a person “cover all the bases” can help protect daily, routine health.
Overt deficiency diseases such as scurvy or rickets are increasingly rare in the U.S. due to improved diet and fortified foods. However, certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies are still a major issue in the developing world, especially vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc. According to the World Health Organization, more than 650,000 children under the age of five die around the world every year from deficiency in vitamin A.
And the potential for vitamins and other micronutrients to help reduce or prevent chronic disease continues to show promise. One of the longest, largest controlled studies ever done, the Physicians’ Health Study II, found a significant 8 percent reduction in total cancer incidence in male physicians – people who, through their education, income and lifestyle, probably had diets much closer to optimal than the average American.
“There are many issues that have helped to mislead people when it comes to the study of micronutrients,” Frei said. “For instance, most research is done without first checking to see if a person is inadequate in a nutrient, and you won’t find much effect from a supplement if it isn’t needed.
“In similar fashion, too much research has been done with groups such as doctors and nurses who are probably not representative of the general population,” he said. “Whatever has been shown to be useful in such research probably would be even more effective in people who have poor diets or clear nutritional inadequacies.”
The researchers wrote in their conclusion that to “label multivitamin and mineral supplements useless, harmful and a waste of money is wrong.”
What You Should Know: For decades, we’ve been told that supplemental vitamins and minerals will make us healthier and ward off certain diseases. Americans are so convinced of that message they spend more than $28 billion a year on vitamins, minerals and other supplements, with nearly half of all Americans taking a multivitamin daily.
Historically, there was good reason to embrace supplemental dietary aids. Lack of vitamin D, for example, was known to cause rickets; lack of niacin caused pellagra (a disorder of the nervous system characterized by a scaly skin rash) while lack of vitamin A resulted in blindness. Pregnant women were warned for decades that lack of folic acid in the diet could mean a crippling spine disease for their unborn child. Vitamin deficiencies could even kill.
But better nutrition and vitamin-fortified foods have resolved many of these problems, say health experts. Today, new evidence is mounting that supplemental vitamins and minerals really don’t do much to improve our overall health. In fact, a number of studies are showing that not only do most people not need them — they can actually be harmful to some. Dietary supplements don’t, for instance, prevent chronic disease or death. In a few studies, they’ve actually been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and certain cancers; more on that later.
What you should know is that a huge debate is underway between nutritionists and the supplement industry about the pros and cons of supporting a normal diet with what might turn out to be an unnecessary product. To date, it remains a contentious issue and to date, many people are still confident that ingesting a multivitamin each day is beneficial at most and harmless at the least.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION? Remember, in this course you must base your OPINION on evidence based facts: not on some person’s idea of what is, or isn’t healthy. Be suspicious of people who exert an opinion and then sell you something. It is likely to be a biased opinion based on money, not your individual health.
You will be divided into groups based on popular supplements:
Collagen Peptide Powder
Whey Protein Powder
Each group will be divided into two “teams”: the pro supplement position, and the con (against) supplementation. Following group in class activities, which will include collecting research based information on your supplement, the individual team members will craft a Discussion Board post on their position. ALL POSTS WILL BE INDIVIDUAL WORK, although you may share evidence based resources for your DB post. Post length: 750-1500 words; at least five evidenced based sources from peer reviewed scientific journals. NO WEBSITE references. Post by the due date: 15 points I am with supplement not against my supplement is vitamin D
Once you have completed your initial post, you will read and respond to up to FIVE posts for supplements different than your own. Two points per reply x 5 = 10 points Total assignment: 25 points.