A lot of money is spent every year on multivitamins, but how much evidence is there for them? In other words, do they really improve your overall health and cut down on diseases? The best studies show that, unfortunately, no, a typical daily multivitamin does not help…
There are a lot of recent studies which do indeed show little to no benefit in overall mortality in those taking a multivitamin for years. One very powerful recent study, the famous Womens Health Initiative study, followed 160,000 women over 8 years and found no major difference between groups. The New York Times discusses this and other recent studies in their excellent review (Vitamin Pills – A False Hope?). Not only may extra doses not help as much as hoped, but high doses of some, including antioxidants like vitamin E or beta carotene, may actually cause health problems.
The take-home message is that no supplement can replace the complex vitamins you get in a healthy diet, with enough fruits and vegetables. Perhaps vitamin D is different, as there was a lot of evidence last year that a supplement may help, but other vitamins, including the antioxidants, just haven’t panned out well in terms of health benefit. I’ll talk more about vitamin D soon. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll continue taking my multivitamin at least until it runs out (I got a huge jar from Costco and might as well use it!)…
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