I’ve blogged a couple of times about this, and now a trio of studies seriously underscores what I previously mentioned: a multivitamin is a waste of money for the vast majority of people taking them. Including myself.
I actually had stopped taking them a couple of years ago but recently restarted — not for any particularly good reason, I admit. But now we have three very strong, enormous research studies involving over 450,000 persons which may indeed warrant the blunt editorial title: Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.
To recap these studies, published in the new issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine:
- A large literature search aimed to find out if long-term use of a multivitamin helped to prevent deaths from heart disease or cancers. They analyzed data from over 400,000 persons and concluded that “limited evidence supports any benefit from vitamin and mineral supplementation for the prevention of cancer or cardiovascular disease. Two trials found a small, borderline-significant benefit from multivitamin supplements on cancer in men only and no effect on cardiovascular disease.” This last comment refers to the tiny decrease in cancers in older men, when used for over 10 years. But this relative risk of 0.93 is debatably insignificant — and how does it make sense for men only, and not women?
- The second study tested multivitamins in people who had recently suffered from a heart attack, following them for over five years and measuring how many died or had more heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems. This study showed no statistically significant improvement, but so many people stopped taking the multivitamins (46%) that it’s difficult to be truly definitive here.
- The third study tested over 5,000 doctors for more than 12 years, assessing whether the group taking a daily multivitamin had less problems with age-related memory loss and cognitive decline than the placebo group. Again, there was no difference in mental ability between these two groups.
I have to admit that these studies, especially the first study, are quite conclusive, and now I think I’ll just stop taking my daily pill (again). There really isn’t any reason why any reasonably healthy person, eating basically normal food, in any developed country, should take a daily multivitamin. But does this new evidence convince you at all? A huge and growing percentage of people all over the world are taking daily multivitamins, despite all of these increasingly broadcast studies. Why? Why are so many of us simply ignoring science? Read their final statement:
“The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided. This message is especially true for the general population with no clear evidence of micronutrient deficiencies, who represent most supplement users in the United States and in other countries.”
Are you really not going to change your habits?
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