The idea that everyone should take a multivitamin daily is a deeply held belief in modern society. We're told that as are our diets have gotten worse, the best thing we can do is take pills to make things right. To convince you they're trying to help, vitamin companies have designed special formulations for people in every walk of life from infants to the elderly.
Here's the article on YouTube!
For years I was a faithful customer. The only problem is the common things we've been lead to believe are wrong. Here's the first fact you need to know.
Multivitamins are a waste of time and money for the average person. In 2006 the National Institutes of Health in their State-of-the-Science Statement concluded that, "the present evidence is insufficient to recommend either for or against the use of MVMs (multivitamins) by the American public to prevent chronic disease." That was certainly bad news for the vitamin companies, but it only got worse.
In 2009, researchers from the Women's Health Initiative published the results of a long-term study of 160,000 midlife women. The study began in 1993 and data was collected through 2005. In the end the researchers said that, "[the] study provided convincing evidence that multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, CVD [Cardiovascular Disease], or total mortality in postmenopausal women."
That means if you're taking a daily multivitamin NOT prescribed by a doctor for a specific condition, you're wasting your money. You might also be putting your health at risk. That takes me to the second fact you need to know.
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Multivitamins taken daily may be dangerous to your health. In 2007 the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a paper titled, "Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention."
Medical researchers wanted to see what all those pills with antioxidants were doing to us. They looked at 68 randomized trials with 232,606 participants. What they found was that people who took the antioxidant supplements, beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E, experienced greater mortality than people who took a placebo.
Simply put, people who took antioxidant supplements died sooner than people who didn't. Dozens of studies still show eating FOODS high in antioxidants are good for you, but getting antioxidants in pill form is dangerous. That leads me to the third important fact.
Multivitamins and antioxidant pills do not prevent heart disease. As of May, 2010 the American Heart Association states that, "healthy people [should] get adequate nutrients by eating a variety of foods in moderation, rather than by taking supplements." Long-term studies showed no benefit was derived from a daily pill regimen. That position is shared by the American College of Cardiology.
The final important fact you need to know is that multivitamins and antioxidant supplements do not protect against cancer. In 2009 the Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center concluded that, "The Women's Health Initiative study provided convincing evidence that multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers..." The American Cancer Society agrees, recommending that we eat, "...a variety of healthful foods--with most of them coming from plant sources--rather than relying on supplements."
The problem is this. Supplement companies don't have to test their products for safety and they don't have to prove they're helpful. The only real responsibility they have is to their bottom line.
After reading this, you may think I'm against vitamins of any kind, but that's not true. There are several cases when individual vitamins can help correct imbalances. Prenatal vitamins for expecting women have proven to be very beneficial. The same is true if you've been diagnosed with low levels of a specific vitamin and are taking a doctor prescribed supplement such as D, folate, omega-3, calcium or iron.
What I'm against are people taking multivitamins without a prescription because they believe it'll help. I don't want you wasting money or risking your health on something that has demonstrated no benefit.
By saying this I realize I an giving up thousands of dollars in vitamin endorsements and advertising. But it's the truth and the right thing to do. Pass the truth onto your friends!
UPDATE: October 2011
Since writing this article and posting the video warning about multivitamins, we've been proven correct again. In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 39,000 women who were between the ages of 55 and 69 when the study began; were tracked for 19 years.
Researchers found that the women who took multivitamins had a slightly higher risk of death than those who took no supplements at all. The same was found for women who regularly took iron, vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc and copper. Only the supplement calcium was associated with a slightly lower risk of death.
Arguments about the results will continue for years with multivitamin supporters claiming people with underlying health problems might have started taking multivitamins to improve their poor health...thus skewing the results. And multivitamin detractors claiming that people who live healthier lives tend to take multivitamins, so their detrimental effect may be even worse.
The only position we take is simple. When several studies, with tens of thousands of people, carried out over dozens of years, run by a wide range of research institutions all come to the same conclusion, you better listen.
DO NOT TAKE multivitamins unless prescribed by a doctor for a specific medical condition. They're a waste of money and cause you to die sooner.
UPDATE: February 2014
In two more studies, subjects that took vitamin supplements fared worse than subjects taking a placebo. In a study published in the Journal of Physiology in 2013, researchers gave men either resveratrol or a placebo for two months and had them exercise.
The men taking the placebo showed significant favorable changes in their blood pressure, cholesterol profiles and lowered their arterial plaques.
However, men taking the resveratrol supplement experienced virtually unchanged blood pressure, cholesterol profiles and arterial plaques. The supplement actually worked against the exercise program!
In a study at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, researchers gave people 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C and 235 milligrams of vitamin E. The subjects taking the placebo created MORE mitochondria than the vitamin takers. An increase in the mitochondria in muscle cells mean more energy, better health and fitness. That means the people who took the vitamins did WORSE that the people who took nothing at all!
We repeat. DO NOT TAKE multivitamins unless prescribed by a doctor for a specific medical condition. They're a waste of money and cause you to die sooner.