Multivitamins Failed to Protect Against Heart Attacks or Stroke
People taking multivitamins to prevent a heart attack or stroke, are wasting their money. That's the conclusion of a review article published in the June, 2018 copy of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Researchers combed through the results of 18 published studies, with over 2 million participants who were followed for more than 11 years.
The research team conducted something called a “meta-analysis.” That's where they looked at the results of several large scale studies. Then they pooled the information to see if they could spot trends or benefits, that each study alone might have missed. Unfortunately the results of the meta-analysis were the same as the individual studies. Here's what the researchers said.
“Of the 4 most commonly used supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C), none had a significant effect on cardiovascular outcomes. Furthermore, none had an effect on all-cause mortality.” In other words, they didn't help with heart health and they didn't help people live longer.
That's not what researchers thought they would find. In fact, early on scientists involved in the study said that, “Western diets are not optimal...” They believed taking a supplement, like a multivitamin could fix “...potential deficiencies.”
When I started training, clients asked me all sorts of questions about multivitamins and supplements. I didn't know what to tell them, so I reached out to local doctors and nutritionists. Their advice was simple. Most people get almost all the vitamins and minerals they need from the food they eat every day. That meant someone taking a multivitamin that provided 100% of all those things was overkill. Doctors suggested people need to only take a children's multivitamin and it should make up for any deficiencies.
There was just one problem with that advice. When I looked for studies that confirmed what the doctors were telling me, I couldn't find any. It seemed unbelievable that companies were spending millions of dollars a year promoting these multivitamin and supplement pills, but nobody was checking to make sure they actually worked.
Over the years, the facts started to come out. 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."
In 2009, researchers from the Women's Health Initiative published the results of a long-term study of 160,000 midlife women. 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."
Each year, more and more studies pointed to the same conclusion. Multivitamins won't help you live longer. But the news was about to get worse. In 2007 the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a paper that found 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.
As the evidence grew, I quit telling my clients to take multivitamins. I started writing columns and made videos, warning people of their dangers. But that doesn't mean you might not need a specific vitamin, for a specific condition. For example, neonatal vitamins have proven to be very beneficial for pregnant women.
Here's what you can do.
Follow these three simple steps for supplement safety.
Have a doctor give you a blood test and a hair tissue mineral analysis. These help pinpoint specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Don't guess, take a test and know.
Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about what foods or activities you might engage in to bring your levels to normal. If you're low on Vitamin D, you might take a 10 minute walk outside every day. If you need more antioxidants, you could eat some blueberries with your breakfast in the morning.
If you have to take a pill, look for brands that verify what's in the bottle. In some studies, as much as 1/3 of the supplements tested had nothing in the bottle that matched the label. You wouldn't buy milk if 1/3 of the cartons had an unidentified white substance in them. Look for seals from U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, ConsumerLab.com (CL) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Having one of these seals doesn't prove the product will help, but it does certify that the ingredients on the label, are what you'll find in the bottle.
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