Do Vitamins & Supplements Work?



Are Vitamins a Waste of Money? The Answer Isn’t Clear-Cut

You've heard that you should be taking certain vitamins and supplements, but does science support those recommendations?

As it turns out, the answer isn’t straightforward. There are things that vitamins can do, and things they cannot do. Some vitamins purport to boost energy, aid in memory, promote healthy skin, and so much more. With such lofty claims it’s no wonder consumers are so willing to open up their wallets.

Here’s what you need to know about the efficacy of vitamins and supplements.


You can’t supplement a poor diet

Vitamins and supplements should be used to fill in gaps in an otherwise healthy diet that’s full of whole foods.

According to Roberta Anding, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and director of sports nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, "They can plug nutrition gaps in your diet, but it is short-sighted to think your vitamin or mineral is the ticket to good health — the big power is on the plate, not in a pill.”

That being said, there are some vitamins that many Americans don’t get enough of in their diets, including:

  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B12 (especially if you avoid animal products)


Should I take a multivitamin?

Many people opt to take a single multivitamin, assuming it will cover all of their vitamin and supplement needs. But, if you’re generally healthy, it’s likely your multi isn’t helping you out very much.

Individuals in specific groups, like pregnant women, can sometimes benefit from a multivitamin. However, clinical studies haven’t found any conclusive evidence that multivitamins provide any benefits to otherwise healthy adults.


How do I meet my nutritional needs without vitamins?

It might seem impossible to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need from diet alone. Rest assured, though, it can be done.

Consider this advice from health coach and dietitian Krista Lennox MA, RD, CDN, “Consumption of a wide variety of colorful, nutritious food is the best way to maintain health and prevent chronic disease. With that being said, it is important to note that most Americans do not meet the recommended amount of nutrients in their diet. Through increased intake of fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grains, and fortified foods Americans can help ensure the quality of their diet so they're more likely to meet nutritional needs.”

Take a close look at your current eating habits — could you be part of the group not getting enough nutrients through their diet?

When assessing whether or not vitamins and supplements will work for you, there isn’t a yes or no answer. You should consult with your doctor, take stock of how you’re eating and how you feel, and then make the best decision for your lifestyle and needs.