Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Should I take a multivitamin every day? (Part One)

I enjoy being able to answer questions from the readers of Today’s Christian Living magazine in my “Ask Dr. Walt” column. Here’s PART ONE of a recent Q&A about taking a vitamin every day:

Dear Dr. Walt,

Can you settle a debate I’m having with a friend? I say a daily multivitamin is healthy, and it doesn’t hurt to take one. She says she heard that they can actually be harmful. What do you say?

—Vitamin Taker in Vermont

Dear Vitamin Devotee (PART ONE, but you can read PART ONE HERE),

This is a very common and important question.

As a journalist in the Atlantic recently wrote, “I’ve been taking a multivitamin every day because I’m like: I don’t know. Couldn’t hurt. What’s wrong with taking a multivitamin? Isn’t that just good if you need it and not bad if you don’t?”[i]

In short, the answer is a daily multivitamin is NOT helpful to the vast majority of Americans and may be harmful to many.

In the U.S. multivitamin sales total over $7.5 billion a year and are increasing every year.[ii] They make up about 20 percent of all dietary supplements sold.[iii] Multivitamins are the most commonly used dietary supplement—taken by 71 percent of people.

The reasons most often cited are for “overall health and wellness”[iv] and to “maintain health and prevent disease.”[v]

However, most physicians and researchers now say, as I do, that this money would be “far better spent on nutrient-packed foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.”[vi]

In an editorial in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine titled, “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” experts from Johns Hopkins reviewed the evidence from three large, well-performed studies:

  • An analysis of 450,000 people found that multivitamins did not reduce the risk for heart disease or cancer.
  • A study of nearly 6,000 men over twelve years found that multivitamins did not reduce the risk for mental decline.
  • An evaluation of over 1,700 heart attack survivors who took a multivitamin reported that the rates of heart attacks, heart surgeries, and premature deaths were not reduced.

The researchers wrote, “Multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline (such as memory loss and slowed-down thinking), or early death.”

When it comes to daily multivitamins, they conclude, “These studies and previous trials indicate no substantial health benefit.”[vii]

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology also reported that multivitamins do not lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, or premature death.[viii] ‘

Finally, a massive 2019 analysis encompassing 277 studies of nearly one million people concluded, “Vitamins, minerals, dietary supplements, and dietary interventions were not associated with survival or cardiovascular benefits.”[ix]

Natural Medicines™ reviewed the best studies on multivitamin use from around the world and determined that “the available evidence is that multivitamins are not effective for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, overall mortality, or stroke.” They add that there is “Insufficient Evidence” to take them “for the prevention of cancer, decreased cognitive function, or stress.”

The US Preventive Services Task Force also concludes that there simply isn’t sufficient evidence to recommend the use of multivitamins for cancer or cardiovascular disease prevention.[x]

The American Cancer Society agrees, saying, “The ACS does not recommend the use of dietary supplements for cancer prevention.”[xi]

The American Heart Association concurs, writing, “The AHA does not recommend using multivitamin or mineral supplements to prevent cardiovascular diseases.”[xii]

Now, be careful of those multivitamin ads that say something like, “Researchers have reported that specific vitamins and minerals are associated with a lower risk of premature death from heart disease or stroke and an overall lower risk of dying.”

Why? Well, what these ads do not tell you is that this is true only when the vitamin comes from foods, not from supplements!

The American Cancer Society agrees, recommending, “Food is the best source of vitamins.”[xiii]

No wonder the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that “people should aim to meet their nutrient requirements through a healthy eating pattern that includes nutrient-dense forms of foods.”[xiv]

Nutrient-dense foods are high in nutrients but relatively low in calories.

Better yet, they contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products, seafood, lean meats, eggs, peas, beans, and nuts.[xv]

PART TWO TO COME NEXT WEDNESDAY

  • [i] tinyurl.com/ya8lgx27
  • [ii] tinyurl.com/yx7ontk6
  • [iii] tinyurl.com/yx7ontk6
  • [iv] tinyurl.com/tcgqf75
  • [v] tinyurl.com/y62rtqwv
  • [vi] tinyurl.com/y2t7vue8
  • [vii] tinyurl.com/y4625p3c
  • [viii] tinyurl.com/sza9qqp
  • [ix] tinyurl.com/y2pf9t72; tinyurl.com/yygps676
  • [x] tinyurl.com/yxavklcr
  • [xi] tinyurl.com/m2z5wc4
  • [xii] tinyurl.com/y4nwkm8b
  • [xiii] tinyurl.com/m2z5wc4
  • [xiv] tinyurl.com/y4np7ws2
  • [xv] tinyurl.com/y2m7g6bp

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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