That is a very intriguing question considering how many people take a multivitamin and mineral supplement (MVM).
It has been estimated that about 40% of us take a MVM and they are the most frequently used dietary supplement we can find on the packed shelves.
Most of the people who take a MVM use it to give them easy nutritional insurance in case they don’t meet their nutritional needs with the foods they eat every day. Maybe they have increased needs due to a condition, medication or a family history.
Unfortunately the research to support our need for a MVM is weak. There may be specific nutrients of concern for individuals such as iron, calcium or folic acid but a MVM hasn’t been shown to definitively say one is needed or that it could help prevent or control a chronic disease.
We get many other nutrients not found in MVMs such as fiber and phytonutrients when we eat foods. It is still important to strive to eat a good variety of foods to meet our needs.
Will a MVM be harmful is the key question we should ask. Lately many of the foods we eat throughout the day have been fortified, meaning they are supercharged with nutrients that either were not in the original food or not in the quantity that fortifying provides. Some foods are also stripped of their nutrients during processing which are then replaced during the manufacturing process to restore them such as wheat products.
Here are some foods you may be eating that are fortified:
- Breakfast cereal
- Cereal used as snack food
- Juice and blended juice
- Smoothies using juice blends
- Fortified grains
If you eat a good portion of these foods and also take a MVM, you may be getting more than your body needs of certain nutrients. This could be harmful especially if the nutrient is fat soluble and builds up in the tissue instead of washing away as a waste product like water soluble nutrients do.
Are you taking more or less than the suggested number of tablets? Some brands tell you to take one or more tablets to get what is considered a serving under the nutrition supplement fact panel.
Will one pill give you 100% of daily value (DV) or more? Do you take one pill or more than one pill thinking more is better? It is best to follow the directions.
MVM plus fortified foods plus other nutrient dense food sources could cause you to over ingest nutrients which could lead to toxicity.
Better Safe Than Sorry
There is no regulated amount of nutrients in a multivitamin and mineral supplement so each manufacturer and type of supplement will contain different amounts or % DV. Even the same manufacturer producing an MVM for an intended audience such as children, adult, active adult or senior will formulate the MVM differently.
It is very important to read the nutrition supplement fact label to be sure you are getting the nutrient of concern in the correct amount for you whether that is iron, folic acid, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids or some other nutrient. MVMs are not all created equal so don’t assume the MVM has iron just because it is a multivitamin with minerals.
Also, just because it does indeed contain iron, is it enough to meet your needs if you feel that your food intake of iron is lacking or could it be too much if your cereal is also fortified with iron?
Be careful if you have children in your home to keep these supplements out of their reach. Some vitamins and minerals can be toxic to kids who think they might be candy.
Also be aware of any medication interaction with the contents of your MVM especially if you are taking a blood thinner. You might want to discuss your medication profile and any potential sources of drug interactions with your pharmacist.
If you feel you need a little insurance for days you don’t eat as varied a diet as necessary, you could take a MVM but be cautious that is doesn’t exceed 100% DV or interfere with any prescription medications.