The use of multivitamin and mineral supplements (MVMs) has been a hugely controversial topic over the past couple of decades. These all-familiar supplements that line the shelves of our pharmacies, health food stores and supermarkets have been repeatedly described by the media as being ‘a waste of money’ and ‘expensive urine’. In short, we are constantly being told that taking MVMs are of no health benefit to us.
Is there any truth in this and what has spurred these negative reports by the media? Before we discuss whether or not there’s any benefit in taking MVMs, we need to take a deeper look into why these supplements came about in the first place.
MVMs were originally intended to provide individuals with nutrients that they’re probably not getting enough of from their diets. More importantly, they are traditionally recommended to certain groups of people in which nutrient deficiency is of concern, such as pregnant women or the elderly. However, modern day living, poor food choices and the use of certain medications have also impacted dramatically on our nutritional status.
It is no secret that the average New Zealand diet may not be providing an adequate complement of nutrients to support optimum health. In addition, New Zealand soils are low in specific antioxidant nutrients such as selenium and iodine, so if you’re consuming locally grown produce, then you may definitely not be getting enough of these essential nutrients. In New Zealand, the fortification of foods with essential nutrients is not yet mandatory. Foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, fruits and vegetables juices, milk alternatives (soy milk) and food drinks (such as liquid meal supplements) are voluntarily fortified with folic acid. Bread is required to be made with iodised salt. So it’s really up to you to make sure that you’re getting the correct complement of nutrients.
Most kiwis are informed about their nutrient requirements and therefore there has been renewed interest in organically grown foods and nutritional supplements over the past couple of years. Organically grown foods tend to have a better nutritional profile than non-organically grown produce, due to the impact of fertilisers and insecticides on nutrient content and the risk of toxin contamination. The general population however take multivitamin complexes to make sure that they are getting enough of those vital nutrients that help their bodies function normally. The good thing is that MVMs in New Zealand are specially formulated to contain the correct complement of nutrients and take into account the unique needs of the kiwi population.
So how can multivitamin and mineral complexes benefit you?
There are numerous studies validating the use of MVMs to support basic health and wellness. In general, levels of nutrients contained within MVM supplements are generally higher than the recommended daily intake for a particular nutrient – this is to ensure that you are getting enough of a particular nutrient and that it is being properly absorbed.
The vitamin and mineral ingredients in MVMs don’t function alone but rather synergistically with each other to support optimal health and wellbeing. Healthy energy levels, mood, stress and cardiovascular function are all areas that may be supported by MVMs. Research in this area is constantly emerging – so keep taking your multivitamin and mineral supplements and watch this space for more information on these wonderful complexes.
Brett Friedman Nutritional Medicine Consultant for Wondermins
Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine (Naturopathy; Nutrition), MSc.(Med) Genetic Oncology, BSc.(Hons) Microbiology
Always read the label and use as directed. Vitamins and minerals are supplementary to and not a replacement for a balanced diet. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Wondermins, Auckland.