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Do we need Vitamin and Mineral Supplements?

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The human body requires vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. That’s why humans evolved on a diet that supplies those essential micronutrients. Yet, 68% of Americans take vitamin supplements. Arguably, because they think multivitamin supplements have health benefits or reduce the risk of illnesses, such as heart disease.

Additionally, some people believe that they can’t get enough vitamins from regular food. But is that true; do we really need dietary supplements to stay healthy?

68% of Americans take multivitamin supplements
68% of Americans take multivitamin supplements

Before we dive into the subject, I have to admit that I, too, have been supplementing with multivitamins. But lately, I have been thinking about if that’s really necessary and I started doing some research.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to that question. As is so often the case, the truth depends on numerous factors, including your:

  • Overall health,
  • Dietary habits,
  • Gender and age, and
  • Where you live.

What we know about minerals and vitamins

The world of dietary guidelines and healthy eating is filled with a lot of misleading information. Manufacturers make billions of dollars with vitamin or mineral pills (see below), and so it is in their best interest to sell more. Independently verified information is often hard to come by, and facts are often mixed with fiction to promote individual products.

For example, manufacturers of Vitamin D supplements often claimed their products could reduce the risk of certain types of cancer (i.e., prostate cancer) and cardiovascular disease.

Yet, a recent nationwide, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with 25,871 participants concluded that Vitamin D supplementation did not decrease the likelihood of developing such illnesses.