An Expert Nutritionist’s Guide to Supplements: THE SYNERGISTIC EFFECT BETWEEN NUTRIENTS explained by a Long Island dietitian nutritionist


We continually hear or read about the importance of specific vitamins and minerals.  People are encouraged to supplement by the media and the manufacturers who promote these products. According to Ibis World, “the market size, measured by revenue, of the Vitamin and Supplement Manufacturing industry is $35.6bn in 2022.” The question is what is best for our health.

As an RDN with over 30 years working with patients to improve their health status through individualized diet plans and nutrition interventions, the important concept to understand is that micronutrients work together – called “nutrient synergy” – not in isolation as we are led to believe.  Sometimes they work together to increase their beneficial effect, and at other times they compete, particularly for absorption.

Researchers are beginning to understand how nutrient interactions work.  The following is a list of those that work better when they are together:

  • Iron and vitamin C: vitamin C enhances absorption of iron.
  • Folic acid, B12 and B6:  the B vitamins all work together, essentially as “a team.”
  • Vitamin D3, Vitamin K, and Calcium:  All are needed for bone health.
  • Magnesium and Vitamin D3For those with diabetes, taking both increase the benefit of each.
  • Vitamin A and Zinc: zinc is needed to release stored Vitamin A, both of which enhance immune system functioning.

Implementing a healthful balanced diet is always the foundation of nutrition therapy and must come first. But even the best of our plans may not include all the micronutrients necessary for optimal health. As stated by Denise Webb in Vitamin, Mineral, and Phytonutrient Synergies (Environmental Nutrition, April 2022), “it’s tempting to turn to supplements, but while vitamin/mineral supplements can help boost nutrients that your diet lacks, they can’t duplicate the combination of nutrients found naturally in food.”

Conclusion:  Food First; Supplement Second.