A balanced and varied diet is the best source of essential vitamins and minerals; however, nutrient deficiencies occur, including in populations with bountiful food supplies and the means to procure nutrient-rich foods. For example, the typical American diet bears little resemblance to what experts recommend for fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, which serve as important sources of an array of vitamins and minerals. With time, deficiencies in one or more micronutrients may lead to serious health issues. A common reason people take multivitamin and mineral (MVM) supplements is to maintain or improve health, but research examining the effectiveness of MVMs in the prevention of certain chronic conditions is ongoing.
In addition to the utility of MVMs for filling in relatively small but critical nutritional gaps, which may help prevent conditions such as anemia, neural tube defects, and osteoporosis, some evidence supports possible benefits of MVM supplementation with regard to cancer prevention (particularly in men) and prevention or delay of cataract, as well as some aspects of cognitive performance. Unlike some single-vitamin supplements, MVM supplements are generally well-tolerated and do not appear to increase the risk of mortality, cerebrovascular disease, or heart failure. The potential benefits of MVM supplements likely outweigh any risk in the general population and may be particularly beneficial for older people.
Writer: Elizabeth Ward