Consistent multivitamin use positively associated with adequate intake of micronutrients: Study

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags Obesity Multivitamin micronutrient

Multivitamins are the most commonly consumed dietary supplement in the United States and worldwide. With micronutrient insufficiency being more common in middle-aged to older adults, and multivitamin use has been shown to improve status in this population.

Micronutrient insufficiency and clinical deficiency are more common in middle-aged to older adults, and multivitamin use has been shown beneficial in this population. To gain insight into this demographic, researchers assessed contributions of sporadic and consistent multivitamin use compared to micronutrient intakes as well as associated nutritional biomarkers among middle-aged to older adults based on weight. 

Researchers at the George Mason University examined multivitamin use in relation to usual nutrient intakes and nutritional biomarkers in American adults age 51 years, classified by obesity status.

The study, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements​, was led by Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University and CEO at the Think Healthy Group.

The study used combined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from years  2007–2008, 2009–2010, 2011–2012, and 2013–2014 to analyze micronutrient intake that was self-reported. The study defined dietary supplements as nutrients that provide 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), or adequate intake (AI) if no RDA was available, for nine or more vitamins and minerals with established dietary reference intakes (DRIs). 

Study details 

The sample size included 9,901 participants who were 51 years of age, had provided 24 hour dietary intake data, and had complete demographic and anthropometric data. Nutrient biomarkers such as red blood cells, iron, B12, and selenium was also used to make assessments. 

Dietary intake and biomarker data were analyzed by weight status (nonobese and obese)per body mass index (BMI). 

The frequency of multivitamin use was  broken down into three groups: 0 days (nonconsumers), 1–15 days (sporadic consumers), and 16 days (regular consumers). 


Researchers concluded that a portion of the US population aged 51 years experiences nutritional inadequacies, and obesity may somewhat influence and/or contribute to these shortfalls. Sporadic and consistent multivitamin use is associated with more middle-aged to older adults meeting nutritional requirements for most micronutrients, regardless of weight status. Non-obese and obese users of multivitamins were more likely to avoid clinical deficiencies for vitamins B6, B12, and D. The study reports that multivitamins may be increasingly useful for older adults who are obese, as their requirements for vitamins B6 and D may be higher than the established dietary reference intakes (DRIs). The study suggests age-specific multivitamins may serve as a practical means to increase micronutrient status and decrease vitamin deficiency in the middle-aged to older population, particularly those who are obese.

"There has been a lot of scientific commentary (absent of data) suggesting that consumers use multivitamins to compensate for poor dietary habits.  The data in this study (among others) suggests exactly the opposite… that supplements are used by consumers as part of a healthy lifestyle and not as a compensation,"​ Dr. Wallace told NutraIngredients-USA. 


The Council for Responsible Nutrition Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements recently revealed the highest overall dietary supplement usage to date. Underscoring the vital role supplementation plays in the lives of most Americans, the survey found that 77% of Americans report they consume dietary supplements. Despite the health benefits, most people pay out-of-pocket. 

The results of this study bolster the argument for getting multivitamins covered by Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts. "To me, this study’s findings (among others) imply that multivitamins should be covered by FSA/HSA plans,"​ Dr. Wallace told us. 

Currently, nutritional supplements are only be eligible for reimbursement with a FSA, HSA, and HRA with a Letter of Medical Necessity from a doctor. Certain vitamins, such as glucosamine, chondroitin and prenatal vitamins are eligible for FSA, HSA and HRA reimbursement with no restrictions.


Journal of Dietary Supplements

05 Aug 2019

"Multivitamins and Nutritional Adequacy in Middle-Aged to Older Americans by Obesity Status"

Authors: C. Frankenfeld, et al

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