First, Multiple Vitamin and Mineral (MVM) supplementation is just that: a supplement to your best possible food diet. Second, MVM supplementation was designed to cure nutritional deficiency disease that was once rampant throughout the world – and it does (keep in mind food fortification is also MVM supplementation). And finally, daily MVM intake is designed to be practiced throughout life starting when your body’s natural development machinery can utilize the nutrients involved in putting you together so you may last longer, NOT taken only when you are older or diseased like the people tracked in recent studies. MVM use is not a cure or prevention to disease brought on by genetics, smoking, weight, lack of exercise or other poor lifestyle choices. MVM use IS part of a healthy lifestyle.
Everyone will miss some nutrient(s) many times throughout life that are important to development and long term health. Therefore make it simple because it is. Take your MVM formula (and not a “mass-market product) everyday as you did in your mother’s womb when her doctor made her take a prenatal MVM in order to make sure she could pass on all the necessary nutrients, she will not be getting from diet alone, to your developing body to put you together properly. Why would you stop now? And by the way, all our country’s top nutrition researchers take a MVM supplement.
Start early in life taking a MVM every day you can, and rest assured you are hedging your bets against chronic disease brought on by imperfect diets. Don’t wait till the “engine is broken” before adding oil. Do it while it’s still working.
MVM studies like the ones you refer to, start out with all the good intentions of investigating the use of vitamins and/or minerals in treating or preventing disease. In other words there is an effort to discover a simple healthy thus safer and more economical practice than high risk drug or surgical therapies. Unfortunately the study designs that lead to the results of most multivitamin and minerals studies are poorly understood or misinterpreted and can in no way be captured properly by a news headline or deciphered by the lay person. Bottom line is that it is impossible to track the results of daily use of a properly formulated MVM from “cradle to grave”. The fact is you need them, because your personal diet and every study that tracks US diets confirm the fact. We have determined the essential nutrients we need at different levels throughout life and nobody gets all and certainly not in the proper amounts.
Recent study flaws
To put this in perspective, those recent studies the media has sighted did NOT incorporate a properly designed or complete multivitamin and mineral formula (MVM) in all subjects and worse, they only tracked older adult usage, NOT people that use for life. The studies and reports get even less relevant because user’s were older adults that chose their own MVM (not all were complete MVM) and as long as they SAID they consumed the product at least ONCE A WEEK they were considered a user. Summary: your old, thus may have disease developing or certainly lots of things not working as they once did, and once a week you think you took some kind of MVM. Obviously a useless report and the good news is no one’s listening. MVM sales are still climbing because people ARE smart and intuitive. All frivolous reports or studies like this actually prove is that older people, and some with disease possibly set in or developing, who once in a while take a “who-knows-what” kind of vitamin and maybe mineral supplement, receive little to no value in staving off specific cancers or CVD. So the REAL message is, don’t take what these people did or in the same frequency, and don’t start later in life if your goal is to prevent or cure whatever diseases these studies looked at.
“Take this to the bank”
Plain and simple, NEVER stop taking a MVM, NEVER. A MVM has and always will be your cheapest insurance against acute and chronic dietary lapses of essential nutritional intake. At the same time daily MVM use is no magic bullet in preventing disease, although vitamin and mineral fortification of foods DID cure many diseases (e.g. rickets, pellagra, goiter, beriberi, etc.), which is the akin to taking MVM supplementation. The difference is that you can rely on a properly made MVM supplement to deliver the missing nutrients to a far greater extent than relying on vitamins and minerals that have been unnaturally added into foods you may never eat – and who knows how stable those added nutrients remain or what’s truly in the food without testing it (and yes, the better manufacturers including ours do test every MVM batch to validate ingredients and delivery and no, nobody tests your foods before you consume them).
Don’t expect much if you use a common “drug store cheap” MVM or start late in life
Although it’s never too late to start making sure your body receives all the nutrients needed for proper health, never expect much from use of a MVM “after the fact” such as starting late in adulthood, after a medical event or disease has set in, etc.. Additionally don’t expect much if you are using some cheap $3-5.00/month mass market product. You cannot manufacturer a MVM that delivers all you regularly need in the right doses, forms and release patterns that deliver the ingredients on time to the right places for $1-1.50 because that’s what the manufacturing cost would be if you were paying $3-5/mo for daily intake. Do take a MVM early in life, daily and one containing the right stuff.
Give your body all it can use while it can use it – start early not after the fact
As mentioned above, ideally you start in the womb and continue throughout life supplying your body with all it can use every day to build a strong foundation that lasts longer than a body missing many important nutrients as it was being built. In other words you want to deliver all the body’s essential nutrients when all aspects of the human body are developing, growing and still working to put things together like your brain, bone and cardiovascular networks. Calcium and Vitamin D intake is a great example of what we are discussing here. It is a well documented fact that up to a certain point the more calcium you ingest before age 25, the stronger the bones and longer they last. Once the body reaches a certain age there is no more bone building no matter how much calcium you add to your diet, only bone shrinking (which additional calcium can only help slow down at this point). Therefore the more bone you have the longer it takes to lose it. The same situation would exist for other body parts and their related nutrients. Taking a MVM formula “after the fact” is more like putting a new façade on a weak foundation, the building will still crumble based on the strength of the foundation. But “build a strong foundation by supplying all the brick and mortar it can hold/use (i.e. nutrients that make up all parts of the body) during development (and after) and it will be a long, long time before it cracks”. The most recent study regarding MVM use validates the above: subjects using a daily MVM that had no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), reduced their risks of CVD by 30-41% compared to non-users and the longer the use the greater the risk reduction.
Again, don’t wait till the “engine is broken” before adding oil. Do it while it’s still working. The goal of proper use of a MVM formula is to first begin building a stronger foundation by taking advantage of our body’s embryonic and youthful development machinery and supply ALL the necessary building materials (nutrients).We then leverage the result into our advancing years. We attempt to accomplish the latter by building off what we started in our youth. We continue to add the compounds our older body can still use but may no longer manufacture or can’t receive in proper amounts from food alone. Again, we now have them at a point in time BEFORE it’s too late, while the body can still use them. In other words, we continue to add these natural substances because our body’s internal “machinery” still works so the nutrients are used rather than waiting until the machinery is worn out, rendering any additional compounds less effective or useless.
By incorporating a daily MVM throughout all stages in life (or at least before disease sets in), we may significantly slow the inevitable decline in body and brain functioning and, to a point, we may end our days in a very “soft landing”: cognitively functional and relatively productive, meaning we would require little to no help participating in life.
Below are recent comments/articles from other experts related to the topic:
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- Women’s Multivitamin Study Seriously Flawed, As Usual
- A Position Paper Prepared for the Council for Responsible Nutrition Multivitamins and other Dietary Supplements for Better Health
- Washington Post: Even a Dietitian Can Find It Hard to Craft a Diet That Covers All the Bases
- Harvard Health: Multivitamins: Should you buy this insurance?
- Multivitamin use and the risk of myocardial infarction: a population-based cohort of Swedish women.
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- The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) calls recent study on supplements and mortality “A Hunt for Harm”.