So many in the medical community have dismissed the use of supplements as a tool for better health. Their logic is about as simple as it gets: If you eat a healthy diet, you’ll get all of the nutrition you need.
Well, a June 2023 study out of Oregon State University says just the opposite.
When a group of men age 68 and older took either a multivitamin or placebo, the results spoke for themselves.
First, vitamin status improved markedly in the men taking the multivitamin. Specifically, supplementation increased circulating levels of most nutrients that were measured, including vitamins B6, D3, E and beta carotene.
At the same time, vitamin concentrations fell in the men assigned to the placebo. Many of the men in this group fell into suboptimal vitamin status during the 6-month study.
Second, men who took the placebo had a reduction in cellular oxygen consumption compared to those taking the multivitamin. This means the function of cells wasn’t working as well in the placebo group as in the group taking the supplement.
In other words, we really aren’t getting enough nutrition from the foods we eat!
In fact, an earlier study from 2017 showed that multivitamin use in adult men and women of any age decreases nutrient inadequacies and deficiencies better than food alone.
Rich in Food… Poor in Nutrition
This conclusion was supported in the latest NHANES analysis on nutritional gaps. It showed just how many of us aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals from food alone.
Specifically, 45% of U.S. adults had inadequate vitamin A intake. Those numbers were 46% for vitamin C, 95% for vitamin D, 84% for vitamin E and 15% for zinc. Inadequate intakes for magnesium (52.2%), calcium (44.1%), choline (91.7%) and vitamin K (66.9%) are also an issue.
Here’s the problem: We have plenty of food here in the U.S. But when it comes to the nutrient value of those foods, we’re poverty-stricken.
You see, the food we eat these days is nearly devoid of nutrients. And I’m not just talking about the prepared, processed and packaged foods that fill grocery store shelves.
Modern day agricultural practices now dominate our natural food supply; our fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods. And it has stripped so many of these foods of their high nutrient profiles.
That’s because industrial farmers focus on higher yields instead of leaving fields unplanted for a season to allow them to renew their soil. They fail to rotate crops the way they’re supposed to. They put poisons like pesticides and herbicides into the soil. All of these practices reduce the quality and fertility of the soil and destroy the soil microbiome.
So we’re not getting the nutrients that the plants would normally get from the soil. The microbiome just isn’t there anymore to help the nutrients get into the roots.
This means that even if you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, it’s virtually impossible to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need unless the food is grown organically or using regenerative agricultural practices. (These foods will automatically have a healthier vitamin and mineral profile. Plus, they are higher in antioxidants than commercial fruits and vegetables.)
Your #1 Insurance Policy Against Nutrient Gaps
Taking a daily multivitamin is an easy way to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet. In fact, people who regularly use a multivitamin are able to increase their daily intake of at least 17 nutrients, regardless of their age.
But the effect is most stunning in older adults. These people tend to have a worse nutrient status to start with. So it’s amazing to see how greatly their intakes of vitamins A, E, C, magnesium and other nutrients increase, simply by taking a multivitamin.
And here’s the most important part of this discussion.
Nutrient deficiencies – even when they’re mild – can contribute to a whole host of problems. These include heart disease, chronic pain, inflammation, depression, cancer and other health issues.
So I consider multivitamins to be a very inexpensive insurance policy against deficiencies that could ultimately shorten your lifespan or leave you incapacitated in your later years.
When looking for a multivitamin, I recommend passing up the gummy-bear versions and wholesale brands. Instead, look for a well-rounded whole food multivitamin that includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
And remember that when all of these health-giving nutrients are encapsulated, they usually won’t fit into a single pill. So the dosage could be as many as six pills a day. But the results will be worth it.
I suggest dividing them up with your meals so that you get sustained nutrition and energy throughout the day.
Michels AJ, Butler JA, Uesugi SL, Lee K, Frei BB, Bobe G, Magnusson KR, Hagen TM. Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplementation Prevents or Reverses Decline in Vitamin Biomarkers and Cellular Energy Metabolism in Healthy Older Men: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2023 Jun 9;15(12):2691.
Blumberg JB, Frei BB, Fulgoni VL, Weaver CM, Zeisel SH. Impact of Frequency of Multi-Vitamin/Multi-Mineral Supplement Intake on Nutritional Adequacy and Nutrient Deficiencies in U.S. Adults. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 9;9(8):849.
Reider CA, Chung RY, Devarshi PP, Grant RW, Hazels Mitmesser S. Inadequacy of Immune Health Nutrients: Intakes in US Adults, the 2005-2016 NHANES. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 10;12(6):1735.
Micronutrient Inadequacies in the US Population: An Overview. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Copyright ©2022 Oregon State.
Montgomery DR, Biklé A, Archuleta R, Brown P, Jordan J. Soil health and nutrient density: preliminary comparison of regenerative and conventional farming. PeerJ. 2022 Jan 27;10:e12848.
Blumberg JB, Frei B, Fulgoni VL, Weaver CM, Zeisel SH. Contribution of Dietary Supplements to Nutritional Adequacy in Various Adult Age Groups. Nutrients. 2017 Dec 6;9(12):1325.
Ward E. Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutr J. 2014 Jul 15;13:72.