Australian complementary medicines don’t disappoint – and here’s why

Australian multivitamins don’t disappoint Mr Mannix – and that tells us something important about science.

Essentially, this article by Liam Mannix suggests that multivitamins cannot replace a healthy diet – a foundational concept and an ideology that the complementary medicines industry agrees with and states consistently. However, as the Australian data shows, most people do not consume the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for many macro- and micronutrients.

Mannix, in telling us “something important about science”, draws attention to an important graph called the Evidence Pyramid, the same pyramid provided in the Government guidelines applicable to  the evidence required  to  support  indications  for  listed  complementary  medicines in Australia.

This article states that multivitamins don’t work but provides no evidence to support the claim. It focuses on the importance of good research. Still, it says that multivitamins do not protect brain or heart health. However, multivitamin supplements are not formulated to target brain or heart health indications specifically – rather to primarily rectify nutritional deficiencies.

Our industry advises that complementary medicines can play an important role in people’s daily health and wellbeing when balanced with  regular exercise, a mixed diet, rest and a healthy lifestyle. It isalso recommend that people consult a health professional to diagnose and treat deficiency.

The term multivitamin covers an extensive range of products. Some contain omega-3 and other ingredients that have been proven to assist heart and brain health. Consumers are encouraged to read medicine labels to ensure that the formulation is suitable for them.

Article details

“There is now a lot of high-quality evidence that multivitamins do not work for people who do not have a vitamin deficiency (and if you think you have a deficiency, you should see a GP and get tested).”

Our health industry focuses on enhancing health and wellness – we encourage the consumption of a healthy diet.  However, based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS), one in two people aged 18 and over (49%) did not eat the recommended two serves of fruit, while over nine in 10 (92%) did not eat the recommended five to six serves of vegetables (ABS 2018).

“The trials that have been done of vitamins have not shown benefit in people who are not deficient. We’re just seeing it time and time again,” said Professor Rachel Neale of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

Numerous studies have shown that just under one in four Australian adults (23%) are deficient in Vitamin D.

Four out of five Australians are not getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.

Seventy-three per cent of females and 51 per cent of males consume less calcium than recommended.

Approximately 20% of the population meet the recommendations of omega-3s for optimal health. (Australians are not Meeting the Recommended Intakes for Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Results of an Analysis from the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (

Most Australians don’t eat enough fibre.

And there are many more studies that concur.

“In a study of 5947 male doctors over 12 years, a multivitamin did not improve brain health or function.”

Multivitamin supplements are carefully formulated to assist with vitamin deficiencies primarily – they are not indicated or even recommended to improve brain health or function. Indications for use are presented on the label.

Listed complementary medicines may only use pre-approved ingredients with suitable safety and quality characteristics and require a high quality efficacy package to be submitted for pre-market assessment (new listing pathway); or post market review by the regulator.

“In a four-year study of 1708 patients who had suffered a recent heart attack, multivitamins did not cut the risk of further cardiovascular events.”

Multivitamin supplements are formulated to correct nutritional deficiencies primarily ; they are not a multifunctional panacea for health and have never claimed to be.

“There was no evidence that multivitamin or mineral supplements prevented the normal brain decline that comes with ageing.”

Multivitamin supplements are not developed to help prevent age-related decline. Again, they are a source of multiple vitamins to rectify nutritional needs. Australians purchase these products for the intended function.

“Caring about evidence in science is important because there are many, many things that look like they really should work and just don’t.”

This comment is baffling. The author has not supplied the so-called science-based evidence that shows that multivitamin supplements do not work. Multivitamin supplements release nutrients into the body to rectify the nutritional deficiency- that is what they were formulated to do.

“Supplementing above and beyond your daily vitamin needs does not seem to provide any benefit, says Louis Roller, honorary associate professor in pharmacy practice at Monash University.”

Once again, Australia’s complementary medicines industry agrees that supplementing an already replete individual does not benefit and individuals are encouraged to follow medicine label instructions

“You can work out if you’re going to be vitamin deficient: if you eat white bread and red meat and that’s it, sure, take a multivitamin. My advice to people: just eat properly.”

Suppose an individual ate only white bread and red meat. In that case, numerous food groups are omitted, and this scenario will need professional guidance. However, clinical nutritional deficiencies can occur for many reasons and in people whose diets are far less restricted. For example, multivitamins and other supplements are essential for:

Those on a restricted diet – for choice, cultural or religious means including plant-based eating.

Those with problems absorbing vitamins and minerals – for example, vitamin B12 is challenging to absorb if intrinsic factor is deficient.

Those with gut problems – i.e., difficulty absorbing nutrients

Those with poor appetite or poor dentition

Older people – who may have a poor appetite and changes related to ageing can affect the ability to absorb nutrients.

The housebound – sun exposure is the primary source of vitamin D production.

Those taking certain medications – which can affect the absorption of or may increase requirements for nutrients that are difficult to meet via diet alone

Pre-pregnancy – to protect the unborn child but also to protect the mother’s nutritional needs in some cases

Post-pregnancy – to protect the nutrition of mother and child

Iron-deficiency anaemia – due to diet or physiological factors.

Plus, there are many more.

Following the long-held advice to eat well, exercise, rest, and focus on a healthy lifestyle, “just eat properly” is ideal. Still, it is easier said than done for many people.

The article repeatedly states that vitamin supplements are not required for people who consume a healthy diet. The fact is that while most of us don’t consume the perfect diet, multivitamins and other supplements are vital to treating deficiency due to a myriad of different reasons. The complementary medicines industry provides accurate information regarding supplements for individual Australians to make informed decisions.

As with any medicine, it is essential to take nutritional supplements according to the instructions on the label or as guided by a health professional. Precise dosage is detailed on the label for general use. If advice is required, consumers should consult a health practitioner.

The Australian complementary medicines industry is committed to providing high-class supplements in the most highly regulated environment in the world. Indications are clearly presented on the label -we urge consumers to get clarity and practical information from a health professional or contact the Australian complementary medicine company for accurate, individual advice. 



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