Undoubtedly, the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is through food. The only problem is, it’s nearly impossible to get the optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals from your diet, no matter how good it is. And “optimal” doesn’t just mean the RDAs. The RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances) were created as guidelines to vitamin and mineral requirements for healthy people, the average amount adequate to prevent deficiency diseases. They do not represent the amounts most researchers now believe are needed to achieve optimal health and help prevent a variety of diseases.
In 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a report analyzing the adequacy of nutrient intake from food alone in the United States. The percentages of Americans with inadequate nutrient intakes from food are shocking and highlight the need to supplement to ensure optimal nutrition:
- 93% of Americans have an inadequate intake of vitamin E.
- 56% of Americans have an inadequate intake of magnesium.
- 44% of Americans have an inadequate intake of vitamin A.
- 31% of Americans have an inadequate intake of vitamin C.
- 14% of Americans have an inadequate intake of vitamin B6.
- 12% of Americans have an inadequate intake of zinc.
- 8% of Americans have an inadequate intake of folate.
Moreover as mentioned earlier, optimal nutrition encompasses far more than simply consuming the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamins and minerals each day in order to prevent diseases like scurvy, rickets, and pellagra. For example, although 60 mg of ascorbic acid per day is a minimum for prevention of scurvy, this dose is far too low for optimal benefits. As another example, the RDI for vitamin D is 600 IU for adults up to age 70, which ignores current science indicating that this amount is far below the intake level needed to generate optimal 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels.
Protective effects of multivitamin supplementation have been seen in major studies:
A large intervention trial was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2012. This paper reported data from the Physicians’ Health Study II, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, in which over 14 ,000 U.S. physicians took either a multivitamin or placebo each day and were followed for an average of 11.2 years. The doctors who took a multivitamin had a statistically significant reduction in total cancer incidence compared to those who took a placebo pill.
A 2010 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition including over 31, 000 women aged 49–83 revealed cardiovascular benefits of regular multivitamin use. In this study, women without a history of cardiovascular disease who took a multivitamin for more than 5 years had about a 40% reduced risk of heart attack.
Middle-aged adults who take a daily multivitamin with trace minerals may improve immune function, according to a new study published in Nutrition Research. While taking a similar multinutrient formula has previously been shown to boost immunity in individuals 65 years and older, this new trial demonstrates that daily use of such a formula produces comparable effects in adults between 50 and 65 years old. In addition to improving immune function, the supplement also corrected nutritional deficiencies in the participants, which are common to people in this age group.
Overwhelming basic science and experimental data support the use of nutritional supplements for the prevention of disease and the support of optimal health. Research from the Lewin Group has shown that spending pennies a day on a few key nutritional supplements can dramatically reduce sickness and chronic disease — and decrease healthcare expenditures research by an estimated $24 billion over five years.
The prestigious Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB J) published a paper by Dr. Bruce Ames, a globally recognized scientist, on the importance of nutritional supplementation for optimal health.The paper builds upon Dr. Ames’ Triage Theory of optimal nutrition, which states that the human body prioritizes the use of vitamins and minerals when it is getting an insufficient amount to keep functioning. While short-term deficiencies are common, they are often not taken seriously by mainstream physicians. Dr. Ames’ research may change all that, as his paper shows how bodily insults accumulated over time as a result of vitamin and mineral loss can lead directly to age-related diseases.
Echoing the importance of this research, Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal said, “This paper should settle any debate about the importance of taking a good, complete, multivitamin every day. As this report shows, taking a multivitamin that contains selenium is a good way to prevent deficiencies that, over time, can cause harm in ways that we are just beginning to understand.”