New Study Throws Doubt on Effectiveness of Multivitamins

A new study will be disappointing to those who take a multivitamin every day. The study showed that the vitamins had no protective benefit against cancer or heart disease.
The largest study ever of multivitamin use in older women found the pills did nothing to prevent common cancers or heart disease. The eight-year study in 161,808 postmenopausal women echoes recent disappointing vitamin studies in men. Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamins to boost their health. Research has focused on cancer and heart disease in particular because of evidence that diets full of vitamin-rich foods may protect against those illnesses. But that evidence doesn't necessarily mean pills are a good substitute.

The study's lead author, researcher Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, offered this advice: "Get nutrients from food. Whole foods are better than dietary supplements," Neuhouser said. The study appears in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. Co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson said despite the disappointing results, the research doesn't mean multivitamins are useless.

For one thing, the data are observational, not the most rigorous kind of scientific research. And also, it's not clear if taking vitamins might help prevent cancers that take many years to develop, said Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard's Brigham & Women's Hospital. She said multivitamins may still be useful "as a form of insurance" for people with poor eating habits.
The researchers said it was better to get vitamins and minerals from food, not pills. But who eats a perfect diet? The researchers did admit that the study was not scientifically rigorous. And they didn't say they hurt anyone, so that's a plus.

Posted on February 9, 2009

More from Shopping Blog