Are Daily Multivitamins Really Beneficial?


Authored by Jon Mercer in Nutrition
Published on 02-16-2009

Research shows that the most commonly used diet supplement, the multivitamin, doesn’t help against heart disease or cancer. In a government-funded study of 161,808 women, conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative, data was collected from forty centers around the country on multivitamin use. The research has proven that people whose diets are nutrient-rich and filled with fruits and vegetables have lower rates of cancer and heart disease, but taking a daily supplement doesn’t appear to offer the same health benefits.

In the eight-year study, doctors analyzed the rates of various cancers and heart problems among forty-two percent of the women and found no evidence of any real benefit from the daily use of multivitamins. There was no difference in the rate of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, or mortality. The finding that multivitamins produced no benefit in such a large, well-regarded study is very disappointing, considering that some previous studies have produced mixed results.

Some earlier research has suggested that multivitamins could possibly be beneficial for breast cancer, colon cancer, and cardiovascular disease. However, the study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative was such a large and rigorous study that the results seem to overshadow the previous studies on the subject. Detailed information on each of the women who participated in the study was taken, logged, and analyzed over a long period of time, making this the most credible research ever done on the use of daily supplements.

On average, about half of all Americans use some type of daily vitamin or dietary supplement. Users of supplements spend a whopping $20 billion annually on the products. The results of this study shouldn’t keep people from using a multivitamin or daily supplement if they are not receiving enough nutrients from their diet. So from a practical standpoint, this study does not change the fact that many consumers could benefit from taking a multivitamin.

Although vitamin users may be skeptical of the results, this is one of the highest regarded studies of its kind by the medical community. The study is simply presenting the scientific evidence that the use of daily multivitamins or dietary supplements is statistically neither beneficial nor harmful. In fact, one of the doctors co-authoring the study said that after reviewing the findings, she would now recommend that her patients spend their money on fruits and vegetables instead of multi-vitamins.

Are you might expect, the vitamin and supplement industries are disputing the findings of the study.


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