Vitamin/mineral supplements: of questionable benefit for the general population

Authors

  • Donald B McCormick

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biochemistry and Program in Nutrition & Health Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
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  • Dr. McCormick is a nutritional biochemist who has broad and research-based expertise on micronutrients, particularly water-soluble vitamins. He has worked for over 50 years on the metabolism and function of vitamin B6, riboflavin, biotin, and lipoic acid. He is a past president of the AIN and has served on public and professional committees, especially those with emphases on nutrition such as the FNB, NIH, FAO/WHO, and NASA.

DB McCormick, Department of Biochemistry and Program in Nutrition & Health Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. E-mail: biocdbm@emory.edu.

Abstract

In the United States today, there is a multibillion dollar industry in dietary supplements with at least a third sold as vitamin/mineral pills and drinks. Though everyone requires small amounts of these essential micronutrients, and supplements are of benefit to some within the population, the considerable majority of people can fulfill their needs with the intake of healthy diets of mixed foods. In addition, the fortification of some processed foods adds extra amounts of several micronutrients, especially those for which there is deemed to be a need in special segments of our population. In spite of this safe and adequate level of intake, there are many who have been led to believe that the frequent ingestion of supplements will be helpful in their efforts to maintain optimal health, live longer, and even prevent or cure non-deficiency diseases. It is the intent of this article to unravel the causes and misconceptions behind this practice and to emphasize that most of the money spent on unnecessary supplementation could be better used for other purposes.

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