Americans Don't Make the Grade When it Comes to the ABCs of Nutrition and Multivitamins

Survey Reveals Majority of Individuals Do Not Know What Vitamins and Minerals the Body Needs

Red Bank, NJ - While the majority of Americans believe they are very or somewhat knowledgeable about multivitamins (67 percent), many do not know which vitamins and minerals are essential for the body or what vitamins and minerals are responsible for specific functions in the body, according to a survey released today by the not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC). For instance, when asked which vitamin is essential for calcium absorption in the body (vitamin D), more than a third said they were not sure. Surprisingly, when asked to identify vitamins and minerals that are not essential, only 44 percent correctly recognized that arsenic—a poison—is not an essential nutrient.

"When it comes to ensuring people get the vitamins and minerals they need in their daily diet, we were concerned by their lack of knowledge—especially among women, who are more likely to take an active role in maintaining their family's health," says Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, Executive Vice President of NWHRC. "We want people to have the knowledge and resources to understand what their bodies should have and to help people choose a multivitamin that fits their nutrition and lifestyle needs if they are not getting the right nutrients from their diet."

Only about 24 percent of people surveyed believe they get the vitamins and minerals they need by diet alone, and, although 51 percent of the individuals surveyed said they take a multivitamin, most of them do not know which vitamins and minerals are essential for their bodies.

"People should know what nutrients their bodies need so they can make informed health decisions," says Pamela Peeke, M.D, NWHRC medical advisor and internationally recognized physician, scientist and expert in the field of nutrition. "There are specially formulated multivitamins that have a balance of essential nutrients at recommended levels that work together to help people better customize their nutrition regimen to fit their health and well-being needs."

The survey also uncovered that although 49 percent of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about LDL or bad cholesterol, it appears that less than a quarter (24 percent) understand that some multivitamins can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. "The good news is that now there is a complete, daily multivitamin containing phytosterols which can help lower LDL or bad cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease and the number one killer of American women," says Dr. Peeke.

The survey did show that women are significantly more likely to encourage other family members to take a multivitamin—supporting their role as the primary caregiver in the home. When individuals are not getting the nutrients their bodies need from diet alone, multivitamin use can help promote and maintain good health, fill gaps in the diet and help bodies to function well.

Log on to for simple nutrition tips, as well as important information about essential nutrients and multivitamins to help ensure that women and their families can make educated decisions about their nutrition needs.

About the Survey Findings

Women: What They Do—and Do Not—Know

  • Even though women (86 percent) are more likely than men (77 percent) to say they take an active role in maintaining their health, among those who said they take a daily multivitamin, men are more committed vitamin takers. Men (92 percent) are more likely than women (84 percent) to take a vitamin five to seven days a week.
  • Women (74 percent) are more likely than men (60 percent) to say they are very or somewhat knowledgeable about multivitamins.
  • Among vitamin takers, women (48 percent) are significantly more likely than men (25 percent) to take a multivitamin to help decrease the risk of bone fractures.

Vitamins and Nutrients: Not Making the Grade

  • When asked to choose (from a list) which vitamin can help maintain healthy eyesight, only 27 percent of participants correctly identified vitamin A.
  • Only 17 percent correctly identified folic acid and 5 percent correctly identified calcium when asked to choose which vitamins or minerals can help maintain blood pressure already within a normal range.
  • Many Americans do not understand some of the key benefits of taking a multivitamin:
    • Only 28 percent indicated that multivitamin use can help maintain healthy blood pressure.
    • Less than half (47 percent) of survey participants understood that vitamin D and calcium often are paired together for their known health benefits.

Multivitamins and Heart Health

  • Although 49 percent of Americans are very or somewhat cholesterol concerned, it appears that less than a quarter (24 percent) would take a multivitamin to help lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Americans are unfamiliar with the benefits of phytosterols, a natural ingredient derived from soybeans that can be found in a multivitamin:
    • Only 20 percent understand that phytosterols can help lower LDL cholesterol.

About the Survey
Ipsos, a leading global survey-based market research company, conducted this survey based on 1,009 online interviews with adults 25 to 65 years of age from across the United States. The survey participants were randomly selected from Ipsos' I-Say panel of more than 500,000 Internet-enabled American households. Interviews were conducted between October 30 and November 5, 2007. The final data are statistically weighted to reflect the regional population distribution of the United States.

The survey assessed general knowledge regarding vitamins and nutrients, as well as specific knowledge of how multivitamins can help maintain overall health and reduce certain disease risks, such as heart disease.

With a sample of 1,009, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the overall results are within ± 3.1 percentage points of what they would have been had the entire population of the United States been surveyed.

About The National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC)
The not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center is the leading independent health information source for women. NWHRC develops and distributes up-to-date and objective women's health information based on the latest advances in medical research and practice. NWHRC believes all women should have access to the most trusted and reliable health information. Information empowers women to make the best decisions to maintain and improve their health and the health of their families.

This survey was made possible with financial support from Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, the makers of the Centrum® family of products. To access more information about the survey and multivitamins, please visit


Amber McCracken
Director of Communications
National Women's Heath Resource Center
Deirdre Middleton
Ketchum Public Relations
(202) 835-8829

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