Benefits of multivitamins called into question

The Washington Post (1/26, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/25/AR2010012503128.html) reports that despite the multitude of varieties of multivitamins available, there is “little evidence that any of these products actually result in better health.”
A study http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/169/3/294 published in the Archives of Internal Medicine “tracked more than 161,000 post-menopausal women over eight years and found that multivitamins had no effect whatsoever in 10 health-related categories, from the rate of the most common cancers, heart attack and stroke to overall mortality.”
Myrtle McCulloch, a clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Georgetown University, says that without FDA regulation, “manufacturers don’t have to prove their effectiveness,” which “makes an independent stamp of approval from the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeia essential to guarantee a certain level of quality.”

The Washington Post reports that despite the multitude of varieties of multivitamins available, there is “little evidence that any of these products actually result in better health.”

One study “tracked more than 161,000 post-menopausal women over eight years and found that multivitamins had no effect whatsoever in 10 health-related categories, from the rate of the most common cancers, heart attack and stroke to overall mortality.”

Myrtle McCulloch, a clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Georgetown University, says that without FDA regulation, “manufacturers don’t have to prove their effectiveness,” which “makes an independent stamp of approval from the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeia essential to guarantee a certain level of quality.”

As frequent readers of this blog know, I recommend ConsumerLab.com‘s independent stamp of approval over the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeia simply because they have tested so many more herbs, vitamins, and supplements. However, in my opinion, both groups provide an EXCELLENT service to prescribers and consumers.

In another story the Washington Post declares “the supplement craze has gone into overdrive,” but “some nutritionists and doctors say you shouldn’t be taking any of them.”

While for some, like people with diabetes or gastrointestinal problems, dietary supplements are recommended, any “healthy person with a healthy diet” should not take them, explained Benjamin Caballero, a professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Post notes, “Nutritionists and doctors emphasize that people concerned about their diet should vary their food, not their food supplements.”

Notable exceptions may include calcium and vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and daily low-dose aspirin (for some) as I’ve discussed in other posts.

In fact, the Post also has a story on omega-3 fatty acid use, reporting that omega-3 fatty acids have received a recent “bump in popularity” as the result of heavy marketing and a 2004 FDA ruling which determined that foods containing them “may reduce the risk of one form of heart disease.”

The high profile “has made omega-3s the darling of the supplement world,” although Benjamin Caballero, a professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health warns that omega-3s can also “thin the blood,” and “should not be used by stroke patients.”

You can read more about evidence supporting or refuting vitamin therapy (vitamin E, vitamin C, antioxidants, and megavitamins) in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook. I also have chapters on the sixty-or-so most popular herbs and supplements (from aloe to zinc) and thirty-or-so popular alternative therapies (from acupuncture to yoga),

You can read the table of contents of the book here, and a sample chapter here.

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