Mining the Micronutrient Mother Lode

The nutrition aisle of your local supermarket can make you dizzy. Row upon row, bottle after bottle of tablets and capsules promise health, youth, vigor, longevity, energy, regularity — even better sex. How do you choose one from another? How much should you take? Should children take a daily multivitamin? Do supplements even work?

Balz Frei

To help sort the science from the hype, consumers and health professionals by the hundreds of thousands visit OSU’s online Micronutrient Information Center at the Linus Pauling Institute ( Each year, the free, easy-to-navigate site gets 3 million page views from 1.5 million unique visitors across the planet, according to LPI director Balz Frei. These information seekers can find the latest evidence-based data on nutrients in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, coffee and tea. They can get the lowdown on synthetic versus natural vitamins. They can learn the science of such “phytochemicals” (plant-based chemicals) as carotenoids, flavonoids and resveratrol. And all the articles are peer-reviewed by leading experts in the field.

The center’s most visited pages include vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin B12, essential fatty acids, L-carnitine (a lysine derivative that helps turn fat into energy), iodine and curcumin (a substance in turmeric that may have anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities).

Some of the science on the site stems from the Linus Pauling Institute’s own labs. As international leaders in nutrition research, LPI scientists study the effects of micronutrients and other dietary factors on cancer, aging, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.