A 2020 study investigated what single vitamins and minerals and other single supplements were used most commonly with condition-specific goals. The authors’ stated objective stated that “vitamin and mineral supplements are widely used for self-care of a variety of medical conditions, but little is known about the specific conditions for which they are used. This study mined consumer product reviews to determine specific ways vitamin and mineral supplements are used therapeutically.”
The researchers performed a cross-sectional analysis of user reviews for top-selling, single-ingredient vitamin and mineral products from a popular online retailer was performed to identify the most frequently appearing words associated with medical conditions. Results of individual analyses were compared to achieve consensus on the top, relevant keywords for each supplement. The full text of the reviews was searched for these keywords to distinguish whether they referred to therapeutic uses or adverse effects.
They analyzed 14 vitamin and 11 mineral supplements. They found that the number of user reviews for the supplements varied from 41 for manganese to more than 5,000 for biotin and vitamin D. There was a median of 547 reviews per product.
Employing the Cohen's kappa test for investigator-selected keywords related to medical conditions the team found generally greater than 0.6, indicating good interrater reliability. From these lists, the top consumer self-care uses were identified for 24 supplements. Commonly reported adverse effects were also noted for several products.
They found that the top condition-specific uses (“therapeutic uses”) for vitamins and minerals were as follows: biotin (hair, nail and skin), calcium (bone), chromium picolinate (blood sugar, food cravings control), copper (hair and skin), folic acid (MTHFR and energy), iodine (thyroid), iron (anemia, energy), magnesium (sleep), niacin (energy, sleep), potassium (cramps), riboflavin (migraine/headache), selenium (thyroid), thiamine (energy), vitamin A (skin, acne, vision), methylcobalamin-B12 (energy) pyridoxine-B6 (energy,), D (energy, mood, bone, immune), E (skin, scarring, hair), K2 (calcium absorption) and zinc (immune).
This study used data mining to identify the top ways consumers use an array of bestselling, single-ingredient vitamin and mineral supplements. The researchers stated that their results can “provide health care and nutrition professionals with information to anticipate the supplement-related education needs” of individuals. And, of course, they can help retailers help their customers to tailor their vitamin and mineral supplement programs.