Navigating Healthcare – Patient Safety and Personal Healthcare Management

Multivitamins Do No Harm but Limited Benefits

Posted in Healthcare Information, Preventative Healthcare by drnic on January 27, 2010

The Washington post published an article “Evidence is thin that multivitamins are beneficial, but they seem benign“. Relevant in today’s struggling economy when you consider that there is an estimated $25 Billion spent in vitamins, minerals and supplements;

over 50% of Americans take a daily multivitamin

In the interests of full disclosure I take a multivitamin and have done for many years. As is often the case – emotions, perception and marketing rule our decision-making but

some older studies have linked multivitamin use to the prevention of conditions such as breast and colon cancer and heart disease

But in fact we should be basing our views on science and

the latest research has shown absolutely no impact on health and disease prevention, over time

As described the most rigorous widely regarded study in the Archives of Internal Medicine: Multivitamin Use and Risk of Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Initiative Cohorts (Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(3):294-304.)

The study included 161 808 participants from the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trials in 3 overlapping trials of hormone therapy, dietary modification, and calcium and vitamin D supplements…between 1993 and 1998…disease end points were collected through 2005. documenting cancers of the breast (invasive), colon/rectum, endometrium, kidney, bladder, stomach, ovary, and lung; CVD (myocardial infarction, stroke, and venous thromboembolism); and total mortality.

This is an extended large cohort (combined) study and represents and excellent block of data to help establish a link between taking these supplements and preventative health benefits….the results here:

After a median follow-up of 8.0 and 7.9 years in the clinical trial and observational study cohorts, respectively, the Women’s Health Initiative study provided convincing evidence that multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, CVD, or total mortality in postmenopausal women.

So the summary – no detectable benefit in the conditions study. It does not do harm

“The big takeaway message is that if someone takes a multivitamin, it doesn’t make them any healthier, but it doesn’t really harm them, either,” says lead author Marian Neuhouser, a cancer prevention researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “So then consumers have to ask themselves: What is really the benefit of spending money on these products, if they are not going to decrease the risk of common diseases that affect women or benefit health? It’s a waste.”

So will you stop buying vitamins – I’m moving toward that direction and may save my money for more proven ways of improving my health. What’s your experience? Do you have any other studies or data – leave your comments below

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