What are multivitamin/mineral dietary supplements?

Multivitamins/mineral supplements are the most common dietary supplement products taken by adults. Ideally, you would get all of your needed vitamins and minerals — known as nutrients — through your diet. However, research suggests that many Americans do not get all of the nutrients they need through diet alone. Over time, lack of these nutrients can contribute to health problems.

Should I consider taking a multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement?

The answer is "maybe." If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you might already be obtaining adequate amounts of the vitamins and minerals you need, such as vitamin C and iron. Other nutrients, such as magnesium and vitamin D, are not as easy to get through your diet. For example, although most people get enough iron in their diet, women of childbearing age or older adults who have difficulty absorbing iron can benefit from taking a multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement that contains iron.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans typically are not eating a diet that provides them with all of the nutrients they need. By the CDC's definition, adults should be eating about two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables every day. In a 2013 CDC survey, only 13.1 percent of the U.S. population met sufficient fruit intake. In this same survey, only 8.9 percent of adults met the recommendation for daily vegetable intake.

A multivitamin/mineral supplement can be helpful if you:

  • Have a restricted diet. For example, vegans can be at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency because vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products.*
  • Have a health condition or chronic illness.*
  • Are over age 50.*
  • Are a heavy user of alcohol.*
  • Have had gastric bypass surgery.*
  • Are on dialysis.*
  • Take a prescription medication or over-the-counter medication daily.*
  • Are a woman of childbearing age. If you plan to become pregnant or are pregnant, ask your health care professional about a prenatal supplement.*

The above factors often indicate a need for better nutrition, either through your diet or supplementation.

A multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement with ingredients in the appropriate amounts can help you in several ways:

  • It promotes cardiovascular health.*
  • It helps maintain brain health.*
  • It supports the immune system.*
  • It promotes eye health.*
  • It helps maintain bone health.*
  • It supports healthy aging.*
  • It supports stress management.*

Follow these steps if you choose to use a multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement:

  • Select a multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement that contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in appropriate amounts.
  • Check both the contents and amounts of any other dietary supplement products you are taking to be sure you're not getting too much of any specific nutrient, which can be harmful.
  • Take your multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement with food or meals.

Is it safe to take a multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement with other medications?

Most multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement products are safe for most adults. However, if you are taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication, it is always best to consult with your health care professional before starting to take any dietary supplement product. For example, an ingredient in a multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement might interact with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven). As another example, smokers, and possibly past smokers, should avoid taking a multivitamin/mineral dietary supplement that provides more than 100 percent of the FDA's daily recommended amount for vitamin A (either as preformed retinol or beta-carotene or a combination of the two).

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Aug. 04, 2016 See more In-depth

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