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Multivitamins make up a multibillion-dollar business

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By Maryellen Garrison

Today, multivitamin and mineral marketing campaigns claiming to improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease constantly bombard us. Just look around your supermarket. Chances are, multivitamin and mineral supplements have their own section.

Dietary supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry. In 2012, dietary supplement sales reached $11.5 billion. In 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported more than half of all U.S adults have taken a dietary supplement in the past month.The 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed 34 percent of children and adolescents take a vitamin or mineral supplement.

Although our food supply in America is abundant, many of us don’t get the recommended nutrients we need, and we tend to consume far too much added sugar, refined grains, sodium and saturated fat. More than 50 percent of Americans suffer from chronic disease due in part to poor food choices.

Should everyone take a multivitamin for better health? Are supplements needed? Which ones should you choose?

Many American diets are lacking in potassium, fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Potassium and fiber help with heart health. Fiber is important for health and digestion and helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity and constipation. Calcium keeps our bones strong, and vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus. By consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy, you can increase your intake of the nutrients lacking in the American diet and improve your health.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the best way for you to reach optimal health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases is by eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods. The academy also says additional nutrients from supplements may help some individuals meet their dietary needs or treat a diagnosed nutrient deficiency. Multivitamins and minerals can help fill dietary gaps, but if taken in excess, may result in the consumption of some nutrients above recommended levels.

You should always let your doctor or dietitian know the types of supplements you are taking and always remember that the best nutrition-based strategy for promoting optimal health and reducing the risk of chronic disease is to wisely choose a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods.

For more information and tips on getting more nutrients into your diet, check out the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication FCS3-573 “Hungry for Change: Getting More Nutrients into the American Diet,” available online at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/FCS3/FCS3573/FCS3573.pdf or through your local Extension office.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.