Vitamins help your body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 essential vitamins — vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate). Vitamins have different jobs to help keep the body working properly1.
People with chronic health conditions may need more of some vitamins and minerals. These conditions include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and some autoimmune diseases2.
Supplementation can help people who don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from food alone. Taking an MVM increases overall nutrient intake and helps some people get the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals when they can’t or don’t get them from food alone.
Different forms of each vitamin are more absorbable and/or bioavailable. For example, vitamin D3 is more effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D than vitamin D2.
Studies on vitamins that don’t show efficacy may be flawed due to several reasons such as small sample size or short duration. Some common vitamin deficiencies include vitamin D, B6 and B12, and folic acid. Other common nutritional deficiencies include iron, iodine, magnesium, and calcium1. Several factors influence the bioavailability of a nutrient. These include digestion, absorption, and distribution of the nutrient by the circulating blood1. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a drug or other substance which enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect. Absorption refers to the process by which a substance enters the body and becomes available for use. Bioavailability is influenced by several factors including absorption.
The most bioavailable form of each vitamin varies. For example, preformed vitamin A is the most bioavailable form because it is already in the preferred form that the body likes to absorb whereas carotenoids must undergo an extra conversion step to be absorbed. Look on the supplement nutrition label for preformed vitamin A, retinyl acetate, and retinyl palmitate1.
Some media sources may downplay the validity of supplements because there is limited enforcement of laws and regulations that prevent a producer from labeling and selling a product under the term “dietary supplement”1. Supplement makers cannot claim their product treats or prevents a particular disease. That disclaimer, which may seem to contradict marketing promises, must appear on every package. So, commercials suggesting that a supplement can reverse or slow Alzheimer’s disease, or any dementia, are perilously close to running afoul of the rules on advertising2.
It is important to note that while some media sources may downplay the validity of supplements, it is also important for individuals to make informed decisions about their health. Supplements can be a useful tool for filling nutritional gaps and supporting overall health. The best way to determine if you need a vitamin supplement is to consult with a healthcare professional. They can assess your individual needs and recommend a supplement regimen that is appropriate for you. It is also important to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods to ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.