The COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for nutritional supplements by 17%-45%, with the majority (52%) of consumers looking to boost their immunity.1 These types of supplements can be single or multi-nutrient and are commonly used to add missing components to a diet.2,3 The nutritional products most purchased ranged from single to multi-nutrient products containing minerals, vitamins, or, categorically, others.1 Curiosity by the general population, healthcare professionals, and scientists is ever-increasing regarding nutrition goods, but what does the evidence show? Should you be taking multi-nutrient supplements?
Micronutrient supplements: Beneficial or not?
According to research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, supplementing a diet with certain micronutrients may be beneficial, especially related to cardiovascular disease (CVD).2 The researchers analyzed 884 clinical trials to determine if and how 27 different micronutrients may impact the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.2
Micronutrients and heart health
The nutrients with the most evidence of benefit for overall heart health include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (unsaturated fatty acids), folic acid (vitamin), and coenzyme Q10 (antioxidant).2 Also, these micronutrients can affect the development and progression of CVD and associated conditions like
- arrhythmia (irregular heart rate),
- heart attack,
- and coronary heart disease.2
More specifically, coenzyme Q10 was linked to a decrease in deaths related to heart failure, omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of coronary heart disease and reduced deaths by a heart attack, and folic acid lowered the risk of stroke.2
However, not all multi-nutrient supplements or individual micronutrients had a beneficial impact. Beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, was associated with an increased risk of developing CVD, and vitamins C, D, and E did not provide significant benefits.2
Micronutrients and blood pressure
Evidence exists of beneficial micronutrients for both measures of blood pressure.2 These nutrients include:
- folic acid,
- alpha-lipoic acid,
- and resveratrol.2
Although nutritional products were used in the research, these nutrients can and should be primarily consumed from various fruits and vegetables in the diet. Supplementation may be warranted for some but at the discretion of a healthcare provider.2
Micronutrients and blood lipid levels
The research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology also investigated the link between micronutrients and lipid levels in the blood, including total cholesterol and triglycerides.2 Supplementation with the following had a positive effect on blood lipid levels:
- folic acid,
- omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,
- and zinc.2
Of these micronutrients, anthocyanin improved blood lipid levels the most.2
The need for more research on micronutrient intake
Poor nutrition is one factor that can lead to cardiovascular disease.2 Other contributors include low levels of physical activity, stress, and genetics.3 Lifestyle factors also need to be considered when supplementing with micronutrients, including how they should be taken.2
Although some evidence supports the health-related advantages of taking some micronutrients, the overall research varies and rarely supports multi-nutrient supplements.2 Some micronutrients still lack long-term data and require high-quality clinical trials to support any beneficial claims.
As a result, there is no clear answer to the question, “Should I be taking multi-nutrient supplements?” The need varies depending on each person’s unique needs. Please consult your healthcare provider before starting supplements.
- Roughly One-Third Of US And One-Quarter Of Canadian Nutritional Consumers Take More Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements Since COVID-19. Cision. Updated in 2021. Accessed December 29, 2022. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/roughly-one-third-of-us-and-one-quarter-of-canadian-nutritional-consumers-take-more-vitamins-minerals-and-supplements-since-covid-19-890190717.html
- An P, Wan S, Luo Y, et al. Micronutrient supplementation to reduce cardiovascular risk. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2022;80(24):2269-2285. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2022.09.048
- Narayanam H, Chinni SV, Samuggam S. The impact of micronutrients-calcium, vitamin D, selenium, zinc in cardiovascular health: A mini review. Front Physiol. 2021;12.. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.742425.