By now you’ve heard that multivitamins are a waste of money and could cause harm to your health. This may be a shock to those retail outlets with “Vitamin” in their names. And doesn’t the very definition of vitamin break down to mean “vita” for vital or necessary for life and “amine” as a chemical amine? As in, substances that are essential for the body to function and which cannot be synthesized in the body so must come from the diet.
I’m here to tell you that the case is closed. So take a deep breath, continue to eat well, exercise moderately, and keep taking - and proudly making and selling - your multivitamins. They do no harm. They are of benefit.
The controversy in question was an editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which was based on the publication in the same issue of three research papers about multivitamins. The editorial was titled, “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Your Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”
Let’s be clear here, because the devil is in the details. The first study cited concluded multivitamins had no effect on preventing death, cardiovascular disease or cancer. It was a review of 27 studies, but only 3 were on multivitamins; the rest were on singular nutrients.
So much for a “systematic evidence review.” And, of those three studies reviewed on actual multivitamins – get this, oh cynical reader – two of them were on a total of 27,658 subjects that found a lower cancer incidence in men taking a multivitamin for more than 10 years. A study that included women showed no difference.
Wait – what? Multivitamin consumption by men prevents cancer? Where was THAT in the headlines?
In the second paper cited, researchers gave vitamins to people who already suffered one heart attack to see if the vitamins would prevent a second.
(Remember, supplements cannot, by law, claim to “treat, cure or prevent” disease or else the FDA declares them a drug – and that’s a subject for another day, but for a stellar declaration of independence from heavy-handed regulations and a call to action for the industry, check out this story that appeared in the November issue of Functional Ingredients magazine.)
Anyway, this whole study was bunk right off the bat because the “nonadherence rate” was more than 50 percent, meaning more than half the study group did not even take their vitamins. The authors themselves said any “interpretation is very difficult.”