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Nancy J. Miller-Ihli, PhD
Are Nutritional Supplements Necessary?
Savvy Selections
. http://www.savvyselections.com/

Are Nutritional Supplements Necessary?

I had the opportunity to serve as USDAs National Program Leader for Nutrition for the US in 2002. During that time I gained experience with dietary guidelines and methods for assessing nutrient intake. This article is intended to provide you with some insights based on well-recognized national survey programs such as NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Education Survey), which is designed to assess both nutrient intake and nutritional status. NHANES is a joint effort between USDA and CDC. Every year 5000 Americans are surveyed and they report what they have eaten and what supplements they have taken during two specific 24 hour periods. Nutrition-related clinical assessments are done to evaluate risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis as well as gallbladder disease.
Food is made up of water, macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are essential components present in micro-amounts in foods and are necessary to regulate the complicated biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies. Micronutrients can be divided into three groups fat soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamins A, K, D and E), water soluble vitamins (vitamins C and B) and minerals (Cr, Fe, Zn, Mn, Cu, I, Mg, B, Ca, and Se). Its very important to point out that micronutrients must be obtained from foods since our bodies cant synthesize these important nutrients.
NHANES data contribute to a variety of things including the US Dept. of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans (www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines) and the current DRIs (dietary reference intake) guidelines. There are lots of terms so many that even experts in the field sometimes feel they are drowning in alphabet soup (RDAs, AIs, EARs, DRIs, DVs, ULs, etc.).
The EAR (estimated adequate requirement) represents the target intake level which will meet the needs of 50% of the population. Lets consider how Americans are doing at meeting those nutritional goals. Based on the 2001-2002 NHANES survey, they concluded the following about Americans
93% did not meet the EAR for Vitamin E
56% did not meet the EAR for Magnesium
44% did not meet the EAR for Vitamin A
31% did not meet the EAR for Vitamin C
14% did not meet the EAR for Vitamin B6
12% did not meet the EAR for
8% did not meet the EAR for Folic Acid
There are a few other nutrients for which an EAR has not been established because there is not enough information. For those nutrients, there is a target level called the AI (adequate intake). Considering the AIs, based on the 2001-2002 NHANES survey, they concluded the following
73% did not meet the AI for Vitamin K
70% did not meet the AI for Calcium
96% did not meet the AI for Dietary Fiber
97%+ did not meet the AI for Potassium
The US is a country of wealth but not health. You can see from the data presented that many Americans are not getting the nutrition they need from the US Diet. Even those who meet the EAR only have a 50/50 chance of those levels being sufficient. So is supplementation necessary? I think it can be very beneficial in providing a good foundation for optimal health.
A couple of points about nutritional supplements 1. more is not better; 2. you get what you pay for; 3. bioavailability is important.Consult with a nutraceutical consultant or health practitioner to determine what is right for you.

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