Multivitamin supplements typically contain most essential vitamins and minerals that the body requires for optimal function, and are taken to make sure you meet recommended intake levels. This glossary describes some common concepts related to multivitamin supplementation and essential nutrients in general.
Natural and man-made compounds that help prevent damage to cells caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS), a natural byproduct of chemical reactions. Some vitamins – most notably C and E – function as antioxidants alongside other roles.
The process of communication between cells, which regulates important cellular functions such as growth, development, repair, and immune responses. Proper cell signaling is dependent on essential nutrients such as zinc and calcium.
A percentage that expresses how much of a nutrient is present in a serving of a particular food or supplement in relation to its daily requirement. For example, a multivitamin that contains 140% DV for vitamin C means that it provides more than 100% of the amount needed to meet an average person’s daily nutritional need.
The biological processes that turn nutrients into energy in the form of ATP. The B vitamins play a particularly important role in this process.
Biological molecules that speed up chemical reactions in the body. Vitamins and minerals are required for the production and proper function of a wide variety of enzymes that enable everything from DNA synthesis to energy metabolism.
The addition of certain vitamins or minerals to foods. For example, cereals are often fortified with B vitamins.
International Unit (IU)
Measurement unit for some vitamins and medications, used to make it easier to compare different nutrients and supplements. The volume or mass represented by IUs varies on the potency of the given substance. For example, 1 IU of vitamin A is equivalent to 0.3 mcg in the form of retinol, but 0.6 mcg in the form of beta-carotene.
A general term for vitamins and minerals, which the body requires in relatively small amounts compared to macronutrients – fats, proteins, and carbs.
Chemical elements such as magnesium that are required for the proper functioning of the body and are particularly involved in bone and tooth health. Some – such as zinc and iron – are called trace minerals because the body needs very small amounts.
A condition that occurs when you don’t get enough of a certain essential nutrient. Deficiencies can cause multiple disorders and general health problems, such as scurvy in the case of vitamin C deficiency.
A term used to refer to compounds that are not currently considered essential vitamins but still play some role in human health. Pseudovitamins do not need to be consumed from diet or supplements.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The daily intake level of a specific essential nutrient needed to meet the nutritional needs of the large majority of healthy individuals. RDAs vary by nutrient, age, and gender.
Essential nutrient intakes that are higher than deficient levels, but still below recommended levels. Although subclinical deficiency is not enough to cause serious health issues, it can still impact your health negatively. For example, it can increase your risk of developing certain health disorders such as osteoporosis.
Tolerable Upper Intake Level
The highest amount of nutrient intake that is likely to have no risk of unwanted health effects. Intakes above the UL have an increasing likelihood of causing adverse effects such as nausea. Taking multivitamins alongside a healthy, balanced diet, or multivitamins with high doses of certain nutrients, can make you exceed the UL.
Natural compounds that are required for the proper functioning of the body. The human body produces little to no vitamins on its own, which is why they are considered essential and have to come from dietary sources. Vitamins can be classified as water-soluble, which means the body cannot store them and any excess is excreted through urine, and fat-soluble, which means they can be stored.