Discussion
  • Don’t believe everything you read. So-called scientists or researchers can “prove” almost anything by manipulating data. Read “Proofiness,” by Charles Seife. I’m not afraid of my vitamins!

    From Linda Hopkins
    October 20, 2011

The Multi Supplement Debate

vitamins_supplements
Half of all adults in the U.S. take a multi vitamin-mineral supplement daily. The reasonable assumption is that, especially for those who don’t always eat a balance diet, a little nutritional insurance wouldn’t be a bad idea. Unfortunately, study after study has found little long term benefit from daily supplementation and last week a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine suggests they may do more harm than good. Researchers collected data from 38,772 women, average age of 61.6. The women filled out questionnaires about supplement use over an 18 year period. They found that the use of multivitamins, vitamin b 6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper were associated with increased risk of death. On the opposite end of the spectrum, calcium supplements were associated with reduced risk.

Does this mean you should stop taking your multi? That’s hard to say. In an article about the study in the USA Today, a researcher and nutritional expert called the finding “puzzling” and called for more research. Two prominent nutrition experts took opposing positions. Marion Nestle PhD, a professor of nutrition at New York University, is anti supplement saying that “given our overabundant, over fortified food supply, you would have to eat a highly restrictive diet to develop deficiency symptoms.” While Jeffery Bloomberg PhD, a vitamin researcher and professor of nutrition and policy at Tufts University, believes that “if you are eating a perfectly healthful diet, then you don’t need supplements. But for the 97% who aren’t there yet, for goodness sake, take a multivitamin.”

What should you do? First of all, if you have taken multivitamin supplements for a long time, don’t panic, the increased risk of death in the study was modest and, as was mentioned earlier, more research is needed to confirm the findings. Given the lack of evidence of benefits, if you are concerned about the potential risks, however, it may be prudent to discontinue their use. If, like Dr. Bloomberg recommends, you want to take one for a little nutritional insurance, a standard broad spectrum multivitamin-mineral such as Centrum, Theragran, or One A Day would be reasonable. Since men and post menopausal women should limit their iron intake, we recommend they take a senior formula, which typically have little or no iron. If you want to continue taking a supplement but are concerned about the risk, an alternative would be to take your multi every other day or take half a pill a day.

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