Multivitamins Found to Have Little Benefit
Multivitamins didn't help ward off chronic disease in two new clinical trials, adding to a large body of evidence that has shown the supplements to have no health benefits – and even some risks in certain cases.
Multivitamins offer almost no benefit in preventing chronic disease "and they should be avoided," experts said Monday in a medical-journal editorial accompanying the publication of two new clinical trials.
The rigorously conducted studies, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed multivitamins had no effect on cognitive function or cardiovascular health. They are the latest in a series of reports—including a review last month of 26 vitamin studies—indicating that supplements have little health benefits in generally well-nourished, Western populations.
"The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided," four physicians and public health experts wrote in an editorial accompanying the studies.
The editorial added that beta-carotene, vitamin E and possibly high doses of vitamin A increased the risk of death in some other trials.
The global vitamin industry is huge, with sales last year of $23.4 billion, up 3% from 2011, according to Euromonitor International. Sales of multivitamins specifically rose 2.5% last year, to $14.2 billion. About 40% of Americans reported taking multivitamins or minerals between 2003 and 2006, the most recent data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vitamin-industry groups criticized the editorial, and pointed to a study last year of 15,000 men, which indicated that daily use of a multivitamin modestly reduced the risk of cancer. Some experts consider the results an outlier.
"It's no secret that many consumers in this country don't get the recommended nutrients from their diet alone, and multivitamin and mineral supplements are an affordable alternative," said John Shaw, executive director of the Natural Products Association, a trade group.
One of the new trials assessed how vitamins affected cognitive function in 5,947 male physicians aged 65 years or older. Participants were given either a daily multivitamin— Pfizer Inc. PFE -0.36% 's Centrum Silver—or placebo pills, and their cognitive function was assessed at the outset and again up to three times during a 12-year period. Researchers found no difference in the mean cognitive change over time between the vitamin and placebo groups.
Francine Grodstein, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Bostonwho led the study, called the results disappointing, but said she wasn't ready to write off vitamins to the same extent as ...
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