Should I Take a Daily Multimineral?
- Numerous factors limit the amounts of essential minerals we get from our diet
- Excessively large amounts of minerals are usually not necessary or recommended
- Chelated minerals are often more effective at restoring nutrient deficiencies than non-chelated supplements
Our bodies rely on essential minerals to perform many vital physiological tasks—from supporting cellular health and enzyme function, to keeping our bones, muscles, heart, brain and immune system working properly.1 And for the most part, a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and healthful fats is all we need to attain a sufficient amount of these vital minerals.
The thing is, we don’t always eat a well-balanced diet. (Or at least, 82% of us don’t).2 And even when we are making efforts to eat well, certain variables can limit the amount of nutrients we actually get from our diet. For example, everyday factors like exposure to toxins and pollutants, eating processed foods, taking certain medications, and stress can all impede the amount of nutrients we get from foods.3–6
Consequently, more than 50% of Americans take at least one daily supplement to help receive the vitamins and minerals their bodies need.7 And importantly, these efforts appear to be working. Recent research finds that supplement users of all ages are significantly less likely to have vitamin or mineral deficiencies than non-users and enjoy a significantly lower prevalence of inadequate micronutrient intake than nonusers.8–10
So, should you join the majority of Americans taking a dietary supplement for micronutrient support? While that ultimately is a decision to be made under the advisement of a health professional, persons at a higher risk for a nutritional deficiency who may want to consider supplementation include:
- Vegetarians and vegans who consume low levels of iron–particularly heme iron, which is the form found in animal proteins and the form more readily absorbed by the body
- Individuals with chronic health conditions that limit the amount of nutrients they absorb from food
- Older individuals, who may be at risk of nutritional deficiency due to difficulties swallowing/chewing, or decreased appetite
- People who regularly consume antacids, proton pump inhibitors, diuretics, or other medications that can prevent or reduce the absorption of micronutrients
- Pregnant individuals, or anyone with increased nutrient demands
- Individuals who are regularly exposed to free radicals from environmental toxins and pollutants
- People leading high-stress lifestyles, which can impede nutrient absorption
- Children (or other finicky eaters) who have difficulty eating a diverse source of vegetables and nutrients every day
If any of the above risk factors apply to you, we encourage you to speak with your doctor about whether adding a daily multimineral supplement would be beneficial. And, in the event you decide to add one, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Multiminerals: More Isn’t Always Merrier
Rather than being relied upon to satisfy all of our mineral needs, multimineral supplements should be looked at as “nutritional insurance” and consumed in conjunction with a well-balanced diet. For this reason, multimineral supplements featuring excessively large amounts of minerals are neither necessary nor biologically appropriate for most people. In fact, because certain minerals can interfere with each other’s absorption (e.g., zinc and copper, iron and calcium, etc.) it is typically smarter and healthier to seek a modest, physiologically relevant dose of individual minerals.11–13
Now, some of you may be thinking, “I’m not a nutritionist—how do I know what’s a reasonable or ‘physiologically relevant’ dose of each mineral??” (Fair question.) Fortunately, you don’t need to be a registered dietician to read supplement fact panels.
When shopping for a multimineral (or any dietary supplement), it’s always a good idea to refer to the supplement facts panel to see how much of each nutrient it provides, and what percentage of your recommended daily allowance that amount represents. Generally speaking, if you see a lot of daily value percentages over 100% (and sometimes 500% or higher!), the supplement is probably providing too much of a good thing. Why? Because you want to leave room for the nutrients you’ll be receiving from food without the risk of them interfering with each other’s utilization.
Multiminerals: Form Matters
Another variable to consider when shopping for a multimineral supplement is the form of minerals it provides. Minerals provided in a chelated form (i.e., those bound to a chelating agent such as an amino acid) are often more effective at restoring nutrient deficiencies than non-chelated supplements.14,15
A chelate is a chemical compound that is formed when a metal ion (a mineral) is combined with an organic molecule. This process of binding a mineral with an organic acid (typically an amino acid) transforms the resulting compound into a form that can pass more easily through the intestinal wall and into the blood—resulting in increased bioavailability of the mineral.16 What’s more, because chelated minerals don’t require as much stomach acid to be efficiently digested, they may be especially beneficial for older adults who typically produce less stomach acid than younger people.17,18
Although dietary supplements like multiminerals should not be used to replace a healthy, well-balanced diet, they can help fill in nutritional gaps for people at risk of deficiency, or those in need of extra nutritional support. If you think you would benefit from upping your mineral game, talk to your doctor about whether a multimineral supplement is right for you. And remember, it’s often better to look for a supplement providing reasonable amounts of minerals in highly absorbable (i.e., chelated) forms.