Scientists from Harvard University found that daily multivitamin may be an unnecessary habit.
That’s because for the average American adult, a daily multivitamin doesn’t provide any meaningful health benefit, as noted recently by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
In the review study, the team analyzed 84 papers involving nearly 700,000 people.
They found little or no evidence that taking vitamin and mineral supplements helps prevent cancer and heart disease that can lead to heart attacks and stroke, nor do they help prevent an early death.
There are some exceptions, however. Highly restrictive diets and gut conditions, or certain weight-loss surgeries that cause poor nutrient absorption, are examples of reasons why a multivitamin or individual vitamins might be recommended.
In addition, a daily vitamin D supplement may be necessary when a person gets insufficient sun exposure. Your doctor may recommend an iron supplement if you have a low red blood cell count (anemia).
The team also found that people take vitamins to stay healthy, feel more energetic, or gain peace of mind.
These beliefs stem from a powerful narrative about vitamins being healthy and natural that dates back nearly a century.
The researchers say that vitamins are very inexpensive to make, so the companies can sink lots of money into advertising.
But because the FDA regulates dietary supplements as food and not as a prescription or over-the-counter drugs, the agency only monitors claims regarding the treatment of disease.
For example, supplement makers cannot say that their product “lowers heart disease risk.” But their labels are allowed to include phrases such as “promotes a healthy heart” or “supports immunity,” as well as vague promises about improving fatigue and low motivation.
Although multivitamins aren’t helpful, at least they’re not harmful. But the money people spend on them could be better spent on purchasing healthy foods.
If you care about supplements, please read studies about how much vitamin C you need for better immune health, and more vitamin D could boost your memory, but may make you slow.
For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about the features of a ‘longevity diet’, and results showing Mediterranean diet could lower high blood pressure in older people.
The research was published in JAMA and conducted by Dr. Pieter Cohen et al.
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