Is a Nutrition Supplement Necessary? 

By Elena Yorgason, MS, RD, CSSD,

Optimally, nutritional needs should be met with nutrient-dense food. A study with 67,000 U.S. nurses revealed that healthy eating did not increase protection against cancer risk (1). On the other hand, a recent randomized trial suggested multivitamins have possible benefits for cancer prevention (2).

Lack of Nutrient Rich Food

People are not eating enough nutrient-rich foods to provide the vitamins, minerals and fiber they need every day. This is clearly shown by a nutrition survey conducted by the USDA (3).

  • 87% of Americans eat less than the recommended 2½ cups of vegetables per day
  • 86% of Americans eat less than the recommended 3 cups of dairy per day
  • 75% of Americans eat less than the recommended 2 cups of fruits per day
  • 85% of Americans eat less than the recommended 3 oz. of whole grains per day.

Most Americans, including children and adolescents, are falling short of the essential nutrients they need. In fact, over 90% Americans are missing one or more key nutrients (4). They are receiving less than the MINIMUM amount necessary to prevent deficiency diseases.

Crops Grow in Depleted Soil

Another problem is the depleted nutrient content of our soil. Eighty years ago scientists warned the government about this problem (5). Modernizing the food industry has caused more nutrient degradation and less nutrition in the end product. For comparison, a healthy diet 50 years ago provided almost twice the nutrition as eating those same foods today (6).

We are getting up to 40% less minerals, vitamins and protein in fruits and especially in vegetables according to a 2009 study (7).

Unfortunately the problem also exists with our meats and animal products.  The USDA reports a 20% decrease in iron and a 59% decrease in vitamin A from 1975 in factory-farmed eggs. Similar nutrient declines can be documented in milk, butter and cheese.

Some scientists believe that the lack of randomized controlled trials means there isn’t enough evidence for a daily multivitamin (8).

“A Great Nutrition Insurance Policy”

Looking at all the evidence – from epidemiological studies on diet and health, to biochemical studies on the minute mechanisms of disease – the potential health benefits of taking a daily multivitamin appears to outweigh the potential risks for most people (9).

Further, the Harvard School of Public Health calls a daily multivitamin, “a great nutrition insurance policy” (10).


  1. Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americansand risk of major chronic disease in women
  4. Nation’s Nutrient Gap “What American’s are missing.”

This data is based on national food consumption surveys overseen by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  1. 1936 report to the US Senate
  2. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. J Am Coll Nutr.2004 Dec;23(6):669-82.
  4. National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference Statement: multivitamin/mineral supplements and chronic disease prevention. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:257S-64S.
  5. Evidence-based decision making on micronutrients and chronic disease: long-term randomized controlled trials are not enough. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86:522-3; author reply 3-4.
  6. Harvard School of Public Health: Nutrition Insurance Policy: A Daily Multivitamin

  1. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

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