The news is in on multivitamins and it is not good.
Two major studies looking at the value of taking multivitamins to ward off disease found they do little to protect the brains of aging men or help survivors of heart attacks.
Americans spend billions of dollars on multivitamins and the health products industry markets them as elixirs that can ward off the effects of aging and prolong life. Yet, a tart editorial that accompanied the release of one study Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stated emphatically: "Evidence is sufficient to advise against routine supplementation."
Indeed, many health specialists have for years advised patients that multivitamins are no substitute for a healthy and balanced diet. But, in an age of fast food and busy lives, many people think they can skimp on their fruits and vegetables if only they pop a daily pill.
"What we've found time and again is that supplements are not working...we don't need to go on studying them forever," editorial writer Eliseo Guallar of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told USA Today. In the same article, a representative of the vitamin industry begged to differ.
"While those in the ivory tower may say that people just need to eat their sardines and salads, in the real world there are nutrient gaps," said Duffy MacKay of the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
One study followed doctors over age 65 who took multivitamins for more than a decade. It found the multivitamins had no effect on cognitive decline. Another looked at the effect of multivitamin use by victims of heart attacks and found little, or no, benefit. The release of the studies is not likely to end the debate, nor the spending by consumers of billions of dollars on vitamin supplements. That's especially the case since multiple studies have found no actual harm from taking vitamin supplements.