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Research Is Finding Diet Alone Isn’t Enough To Meet Nutrient Needs

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The modern diet, lifestyle, and increased exposure to stress demands more nutritional support to sustain our bodies. Yet, most people are not getting that support from diet alone. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only about 10% of adults eat the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.1

The reasons why people aren’t getting enough nutrients from the diet alone include:

  • Being too busy to prepare enough fruit and vegetables.
  • Age-related nutrient deficiencies. Elderly people have an age-related loss of appetite and eat less food.
  • Stress at work or home leads to deficiencies of key nutrients such as magnesium,2 vitamin B12,3, and vitamin C.4 This nutrient depletion can lead to a vicious circle since magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin C can help the body cope with stress.

Research indicates that taking a good multivitamin can compensate for dietary nutrient deficiencies or nutrient depletion by a stressful lifestyle.


Summary of Research—Why Food Alone Isn’t Enough

A large number of studies demonstrate that multivitamins can compensate for dietary deficiencies and offer some health benefits of their own.

One recent trial published in June 2023 found that diet alone wasn’t enough to provide healthy levels of nutrients in older men.5

The study looked at 35 healthy men aged 68 and older who received a multivitamin supplement or a placebo for six months. At the beginning and end of the trial, the study authors measured:

  • Lipids
  • Metabolic markers
  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • Ferritin (a marker of iron levels)
  • Vitamins A, B6, B12, D, E, and K, and folate
  • The carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene
  • Calcium, copper, magnesium, and zinc
  • Oxygen consumption by monocyte white blood cells

The study found that many of the nutritional biomarkers improved in the men given the multivitamin supplement, indicating the men were not getting enough of several key nutrients when the study started. At the same time, several of the men in the placebo group experienced a decline in their blood nutrition biomarkers, suggesting that food alone wasn’t enough to maintain healthy levels of nutrients.

The men in the placebo group also had reduced cellular oxygen consumption, which didn’t happen in the men given the multi, suggesting that the multivitamin supported white blood cell function.


What Other Multivitamin Studies Have Found

  • A systematic review and meta-analysis investigated whether multivitamins could support bone health.6 The review, which included eight studies and 80,148 subjects, found that people who took a multivitamin were more likely to have strong, healthy hip bones.
  • Another systematic review and meta-analysis of ten trials found that multivitamin use improved free recall memory.7
  • In a study of middle-aged and older adults, compared with food alone, multivitamin use correlated with a lower prevalence of nutrient inadequacies and improved levels of folate, iodine, selenium, and vitamins B6, B12, and D, especially in obese subjects.8
  • A couple of studies looked at the effect of multivitamins on mood and stress. In one of those studies, multivitamin use improved mood and well-being.9 In the other study of healthy older men, multivitamin use reduced everyday stress and improved mood compared with the placebo.10 The multivitamin also made the men more alert and improved their ability to function on a daily basis.



  1. Seung Hee Lee LVM. Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2022;71(1):1-9.
  2. Pickering G, Mazur A, Trousselard M, et al. Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients. 2020;12(12).
  3. Mishra GD, McNaughton SA, O’Connell MA, Prynne CJ, Kuh D. Intake of B vitamins in childhood and adult life in relation to psychological distress among women in a British birth cohort. Public Health Nutr. 2009;12(2):166-174.
  4. Moritz B, Schmitz AE, Rodrigues ALS, Dafre AL, Cunha MP. The role of vitamin C in stress-related disorders. J Nutr Biochem. 2020;85:108459.
  5. Michels AJ, Butler JA, Uesugi SL, et al. Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplementation Prevents or Reverses Decline in Vitamin Biomarkers and Cellular Energy Metabolism in Healthy Older Men: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2023;15(12).
  6. Beeram I, Mortensen SJ, Yeritsyan D, Momenzadeh K, von Keudell A, Nazarian A. Multivitamins and risk of fragility hip fracture: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Osteoporos. 2021;16(1):29.
  7. Grima NA, Pase MP, Macpherson H, Pipingas A. The effects of multivitamins on cognitive performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;29(3):561-569.
  8. Frankenfeld CL, Wallace TC. Multivitamins and Nutritional Adequacy in Middle-Aged to Older Americans by Obesity Status. J Diet Suppl. 2020;17(6):684-697.
  9. Lagzi N, Bateni A, Goli R, Talebiazar N. The effect of multivitamins on anxiety and depression in patients undergoing methadone maintenance treatment: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2023:912174231179320.
  10. Harris E, Kirk J, Rowsell R, et al. The effect of multivitamin supplementation on mood and stress in healthy older men. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2011;26(8):560-567.
  11. Maselli Del Giudice A, La Mantia I, Barbara F, et al. Use of Nutraceuticals in Elderly to Fight Inflammation and Immuno-Senescence: A Randomized Case-Control Study. Nutrients. 2022;14(17).
  12. Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182.
  13. Goodarzi R, Jafarirad S, Mohammadtaghvaei N, Dastoorpoor M, Alavinejad P. The effect of pomegranate extract on anthropometric indices, serum lipids, glycemic indicators, and blood pressure in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A randomized double-blind clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2021;35(10):5871-5882.
  14. Whyte AR, Cheng N, Fromentin E, Williams CM. A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Study to Compare the Safety and Efficacy of Low Dose Enhanced Wild Blueberry Powder and Wild Blueberry Extract (ThinkBlue™) in Maintenance of Episodic and Working Memory in Older Adults. Nutrients. 2018;10(6).
  15. Li R, Ye Z, Yang W, Xu YJ, Tan CP, Liu Y. Blueberry Anthocyanins from Commercial Products: Structure Identification and Potential for Diabetic Retinopathy Amelioration. Molecules. 2022;27(21).
  16. Spohr L, de Aguiar MSS, Bona NP, et al. Blueberry Extract Modulates Brain Enzymes Activities and Reduces Neuroinflammation: Promising Effect on Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Depressive-Like Behavior. Neurochem Res. 2023;48(3):846-861.
  17. Zheng X, Hai J, Yang Y, et al. Effects of resveratrol supplementation on cardiac remodeling in hypertensive patients: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Hypertens Res. 2023;46(6):1493-1503.
  18. Riccioni G, Scotti L, Di Ilio E, et al. Lycopene and preclinical carotid atherosclerosis. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2011;25(3):435-441.
  19. Schwarz S, Obermüller-Jevic UC, Hellmis E, Koch W, Jacobi G, Biesalski HK. Lycopene inhibits disease progression in patients with benign prostate hyperplasia. J Nutr. 2008;138(1):49-53.



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