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Vitamin & Mineral Supplementation

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May 22, 2019

Amy: Today, we’re talking “Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation.” Hello, I’m Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm & Family. Today, we’re speaking with Kathleen Throop, Mississippi State University dietetic intern in Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion.

Kathleen, what do you have to share with us today when it comes to the world of vitamin and mineral supplementation?

Kathleen: Well, I would like to share some of the recommendations and current research findings that I have gathered on the effectiveness of supplementation in preventing chronic diseases.

Amy: And, who is this information for in terms of life-stage?

Kathleen: Well, I have gathered some supplementation and nutrition facts for all ages. This supplementation and nutrition information can be useful for anyone who takes a daily vitamin or mineral supplement or is just interested in health and nutrition topics in general.

Amy: So, Kathleen who is making these supplement recommendations? Are these recommendations from medical professionals?

Kathleen: Yes, the recommendations I would like to share with you today come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. According to their website, “The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services” (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), 2019).

Amy: Interesting. What does the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have to say about supplementation?

Kathleen: Well, the task force found that when it comes to both multivitamins and individual vitamin and mineral supplements, there is not enough evidence to support their use specifically to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer. However, the task force did find that supplementation with beta-carotene can actually increase an individual’s risk of lung cancer if they are predisposed to that disease (USPSTF, 2014).

Amy: Wow, I did not know about the risks associated with beta-carotene. Isn’t that found in most multivitamins?

Kathleen: Yes, it is, but we can protect ourselves against these diseases in other ways. Eating a wide variety of nutrients in a well-balanced diet is the best protection against many types of chronic disease. The USDA’s dietary guidelines can be found at can help you identify what can help you achieve a well-balanced diet. A few quick tips include adding a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, making sure you fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal, choosing whole grains such as brown rice over processed grains such as bread, and eating a variety of protein sources from both animals and plants. Good plant sources of protein could include soy products such as tofu or beans while animal sources of protein should consist of chicken, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of pork and beef. Look for 85% lean ground beef or higher and cut as much fat off of meats as possible to protect your cardiovascular health.

Amy: So, choosing a wide variety of foods will help us to avoid many types of chronic disease, but what about diseases that have been linked to specific nutrients such like osteoporosis and fracture prevention?

Kathleen: Fracture prevention in the elderly is another hot topic in the supplementation world.

Amy: Fractures in the elderly? Do you mean from osteoporosis?

Kathleen: Yes, as we age our bone density decreases and increases our risk of fractures. In fact, according to the CDC, 5.1% of all U.S. men over age 65 have osteoporosis of the femur neck or lumbar spine while 24.5% of all U.S. women over age 65 suffer from osteoporosis in their femurs or spines. This is why calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients that we should include in our diet at any age to prevent weak bones in the future. However, the question I am asking today is, although we need calcium and vitamin D to prevent fractures, should we be taking a daily calcium and vitamin D supplement to prevent osteoporosis? The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has found that when it comes to calcium and vitamin D supplementation, alone or in a combined form, in men and premenopausal women, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has determined that there is insufficient evidence to recommend the daily supplementation of calcium and vitamin D for the prevention of fractures (USPSTF, 2018).

These findings are similar for postmenopausal women as well, and the task force even identified some hazards of vitamin D and calcium supplementation including an increased risk of kidney stones (USPSTF, 2018). In addition to an increased likelihood of kidney stones, a systematic review published in the journal, Clinical Interventions in Aging, found multiple studies showed that a possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease with calcium supplementation (Li et al., 2018).

Amy: Are you saying that even for postmenopausal women there is no amount of calcium or vitamin D that has been shown to be protective against bone fractures?

Kathleen: Yes, the overall consensus is that supplementing with calcium and vitamin D has not been proven to be effective against fracture prevention in adults who live independently.

Amy: If that is the case, what can we do to reduce our risk of bone fractures later in life?

Kathleen: Well, calcium and vitamin D both play an important role in bone health, but the science is beginning to reveal that supplementation doesn’t seem to work very well. However, we look to a healthy, well-rounded diet that includes quality sources of calcium like tofu, sardines, sesame seeds, yogurt, cheeses, milk, and cooked greens like spinach, collard, turnip, mustard, and beet greens (The George Mateljan Foundation, 2019). And for vitamin D, foods to look for include fatty fishes like salmon, mackerel and tuna. You can also get small amounts of Vitamin D from egg yolks, beef liver and cheese; also, other common foods such as milk and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D.

Amy: Good to know that we can get most of our calcium and vitamin D from our diet! Thank you, Kathleen, for joining us today.

Kathleen: Thank you for having me, Amy, and I hope that this information has encouraged everyone to rethink their preventive health strategies and supplement use.

Amy: Today, we’ve been speaking with Kathleen Throop, Mississippi State University Dietetic intern in Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion. I’m Amy Myers, and this has been Farm & Family.  Have a great day!

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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