The new dietary guidelines released by the U.S. government January 31 advocate that people obtain the daily nutrients they need from food. That position is nothing new for these guidelines, which are released every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). What was new this time around, however, was the government’s acknowledgement that sometimes it’s not possible for all people to get all of their necessary nutrients from food, thus warranting the need for supplementation.

“A basic premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods,” reads the executive summary of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. “In certain cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise might be consumed in less than recommended amounts.”

Duffy MacKay, ND, vice president of scientific & regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), called this new nuanced stance on the role of supplementation “refreshing.” “Sometimes you see the ‘food first’ perspective go to the level of the nonsensical,” MacKay said. “From my perspective as a naturopath, getting all of your nutrients from diet is great in theory, but it’s just not practical.”