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Multivitamins could be a waste of your money

Eat your fruits and vegetables. It’s not just mom who’s making this plea now. CNN reports this week that despite a $14 billion dollar vitamin supplement industry which promotes usage of multivitamins, and a population that takes them, the Annals of Internal Medicine has issued a report that using multivitamins to prevent chronic conditions is a waste of money.

According to the study, “Focusing on diet and exercise remains the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.” This despite that over half the U.S. population takes some sort of multivitamin, many for a chronic health condition.

According to Dr. Edgar Miller, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author of the editorial, “The (vitamin and supplement) industry is based on anecdote, people saying 'I take this, and it makes me feel better.” Miller claims that this anecdote or myth is perpetuated, despite evidence to the contrary. Vitamins apparently do little to “prevent mortality, stroke or heart attack,” said Miller.

Are multivitamins a waste of money?


There were three studies completed this week and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Each study reviewed the “effects of multivitamins on preventing heart attacks and cancer, as well as improving cognitive function in men older than 65.”

In the first study over 450,000 participants were studied in a meta-analysis of 27 studies to determine if multivitamins could help prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer. There was no proof that multivitamins offered any benefits. The vitamins also did not improve the participant’s mortality rates.

What did the study show? Studies confirmed that smokers who took only beta carotene supplements increased their risk of lung cancer. Authors also found that a multivitamin did not help prevent a second heart attack.

In a second study the researchers reviewed the medical data of 1,700 patients who previously had heart attacks. In this study the participants were asked to take three multivitamins or placebos twice a day for five years. This study proved inconclusive due to the high dropout rate of the participants and researchers admitted the interpretation was very difficult.

The last study reviewed the medical history of nearly 6,000 men older than 65, who took either a multivitamin or a placebo for 12 years. Researchers had the men complete tests to analyze differences in the cognitive functions of each group but did not find a substantial difference.

Critics of the third study noted that the participants were a very healthy group of physicians with no reported health issues, a group which is not representative of the American population.

Demographics of the American population


Proponents of multivitamins argue that the American population is generally not well nourished. They subsist on a diet of processed foods, fast foods, cokes and Twinkies. It’s not hard to admit they are not getting the vitamins and minerals they need. Not to mention most Americans have a chronic health condition and they are overweight.

Even those who choose to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight may still have vitamin deficiencies. For this reason some nutritional experts recommend that multivitamins may address the nutritional deficiencies in people.

For now, the debate between the multivitamin industry and researchers continues.
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