Should you take a Multivitamin?

The supplement industry is a billion dollar business. Americans pour billions and billions of dollars into drinks, pills and tablets seeking better health and hoping to lower the risk of chronic disease. Multivitamins are among the most purchased supplements on the market, yet the value of the multivitamin is often called into question. And, it is no wonder when so many mixed messages are touted in the media and conflicting results surface from various studies year after year.  Thus the question, should you take a multivitamin?

Recent headlines would suggest that yes, you should take a multivitamin – if you’re a man. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month, multivitamins were shown to reduce the incidence of cancer in men. The effect was marginal, but after following the men for more than 11 years, researchers concluded that it does offer an eight percent lower risk of cancer in comparison to the group taking a placebo.

Of course, just this week, news came out from the same study showing that multivitamins do not protect men against heart disease. In this branch of study, 15,000 men were followed for 10 years and found that the risk of heart attack, stroke and death were not reduced by those supplementing a daily multivitamin.

Dr. Anita Petruzzelli of BodyLogicMD of Hartford says, “Don’t throw away your multivitamins just yet. Just because this study shows a multivitamin doesn’t protect against heart disease does not mean it  is not otherwise beneficial. And, while I can’t say that the results of either study apply to women, I would say a multi is beneficial for both sexes and I am optimistic that future studies will show this.”

In 2004, a study found that supplementing vitamins and minerals reduces healthcare costs by preventing future illness in men and women. However, speculation was raised against these results in 2008, when an analysis uncovered a correlation between supplement use and people who already engage in a healthy lifestyle.

Most experts agree that a high-quality daily multivitamin can’t hurt. Dr. Jennifer Landa, Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD, wrote in her column on, “Everyone can benefit from a multivitamin. This is a great way to avoid taking a million pills every day and still supplement the nutrients you need. When choosing a multi, examine the label – find one that offers the nutrients you need most. For example, if you have a family history of eye disease, you may want to choose a multivitamin with lutein or, if prostate cancer is a concern, choose a multi with boron.” Dr. Landa also recommends that both men and women supplement vitamin D3 and omega threes in addition to their daily multi. She says in her practice, most patients are deficient in these nutrients, regardless of health status.

“Just remember, vitamin and mineral supplements do not replace the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. They are meant to supplement your efforts. You should continue to consume a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins in moderate portions,” says Landa.