Most athletes realize that no pill or potion is going to make up for a diet that does not contain an abundance of nutrient dense foods. Yet, sometimes a simple multivitamin and mineral supplement daily seems like it might be insurance against gaps in nutrient intake. Choosing a supplement, though, can be anything but simple. With all of the options available, it can be a lot to sort through. Here are a few guiding principles for selecting and taking vitamin and mineral supplements:
- Choose a daily multivitamin mineral supplement; these have both vitamins and
- Select a supplement with ~100% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamins and minerals. Although it seems like more would be better, studies have shown that more than 100% of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful. Some nutrients, for example, calcium may be less than 100% as it is difficult to fit in one tablet.
- Multivitamin and mineral supplements and requirements do vary by age and sex with considerations for health and illness. For example, pregnant women need a prenatal vitamin mineral supplement and men and postmenopausal women require less iron.
- Keep them safe. The amount of vitamins and minerals in an adult supplement is potentially too much for a child. Iron supplements are a leading cause of poisoning in children under age 6.
- If the supplement seems to upset your stomach, try taking it at night before you go to bed.
Three organizations independently test vitamins and minerals:
- USP (US Pharmacopeia) (pictured)
- NSF International (pictured) including a special NSF Certified for Sport app (free)
- Consumer Lab
Makers of vitamins and minerals pay to have their products reviewed by one of these organizations to certify that they contain the substance(s) listed in the amounts noted and are free from contaminants (eg., microorganisms, heavy metals). They do not certify that the vitamins and minerals or other dietary supplements are effective. It would be nice if the companies who pay for the testing listed this consistently or placed the certification on each bottle of supplement, but they do not.
Remember that vitamin and mineral supplements generally contain only the vitamins and minerals that are known to be associated with deficiency which is rare in the US. They don’t contain many of the other substances, like, antioxidants and fiber that are likely important for more optimal health. So the best and only strategy is to eat a wide variety of nutrient dense foods.
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Want help choosing a vitamin mineral supplement that is right for you? Contact me [email protected]