Several studies suggest that multivitamins are useless in improving overall health. The studies also suggest the vitamins may be dangerous as some patients assume the supplements will cure chronic ailments.
A recent editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests most supplements and vitamins are simply a waste of money. The editorial is based on the results of three studies examining the effectiveness of multivitamins.
The most comprehensive of the three studies was a meta-analysis of previous research. The researchers examined the results of 27 previous studies, which included over 450,000 participants. Time reports that the analysis revealed that participants who took multivitamins were as likely to develop cancer and cardiovascular disease as those who did not.
Another study involved 1,700 patients who previously suffered one or more heart attacks. Researchers found no evidence that the vitamins were effective at preventing subsequent heart attacks. However, as 50 percent of the participants dropped out of the 3-year study, the results have been disputed.
The final study cited in the editorial measured the cognitive abilities in 6,000 men over the age of 65. The participants were asked to take either a multivitamin or a placebo for a period of 10 years. Their cognitive functioning was tested periodically throughout the study. The researchers concluded that multivitamins had no influence on cognitive ability in older men.
As reported by CNN, Professor Gladys Block with the University of California Berkeley disputes the editorial’s claims. Block said most Americans need vitamins to supplement unhealthy eating habits. She admits that a balanced diet would decrease the need for vitamin supplements. However, she said the US has “a substantial population that one would hesitate to call healthy.”
Block also criticizes the three studies as the participants were not an accurate representation of the general population. All 6,000 participants in the cognitive ability study were physicians with no previous health concerns.
Dr. Edgar Miller, who co-authored the editorial, said the entire supplement and vitamin “industry is based on anecdote.” He said misinformation is “perpetuated” as those who take vitamins keep telling themselves they feel better. Miller argues, “When you put it to the test, there’s no evidence of benefit in the long term.”
As doctors have widely varying opinions, the debate surrounding multivitamins is certain to continue.
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