Some experts say taking a daily multivitamin is a waste of time, but others say they have value. What should you do?
When it comes to health, many people swear by vitamins as a part of their wellness regimen, and I’m one of them. If I go too many days without my multivitamin, I feel tired. But research shows that taking a multivitamin may not do what you expect. There is not a lot of evidence that shows your vitamin and mineral cocktail is the panacea for the healthy lifestyle you seek. In the majority of studies, there is no benefit from multivitamins in protecting the brain or heart. But there is optimism from experts at Harvard.
“There are potential benefits and there are no known risks at this time,” says Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It is worth considering a multivitamin as part of a healthy lifestyle.”
If you really believe your multivitamin aids in your well-being, but expert opinions seem to differ, what do you do? First, ask yourself why you take a multivitamin.
What the Experts Know About Multivitamins
There have been numerous studies on vitamins and health, but only a small percentage of thorough research on the benefits of a “true” multivitamin, a capsule that has all the crucial vitamins and minerals at reasonably low levels that are essential to our bodies.
The best study done thus far is the Physicians’ Health Study II. This was the first and only large-scale randomized clinical trial to test a commonly taken multivitamin like the ones in your local drug stores, containing the daily requirements of 31 vitamins and minerals essential for good health.
A sizeable number of male physicians took either a multivitamin or a placebo pill for more than a decade. The findings were mixed, with modest reductions in cancer and cataracts, but no shielding effect against cardiovascular disease or diminishing mental function. What about safety?
According to multivitamin advocates, there is no strong evidence that taking a multivitamin for many years is harmful. “While I agree that the likelihood of harm is small, the likelihood of a clear health benefit is also very small—and also we have no clear proof yet of such benefit,” says Dr. Guallar, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Dr. Sesso speaks for the optimists, who urge a wait-and-see approach. “Multivitamin supplementation is low risk and low cost, and it helps to