Do multivitamins work? Study concludes supplements a ‘waste of money’ for most people

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CHICAGO — Vitamins and supplements that countless people take to improve their health are just a waste of money, a new study contends. Researchers from Northwestern University say their health benefits are mainly in the mind and some may even do more harm than good.

According to the CDC, nearly six in 10 Americans regularly took dietary supplements in 2018. Last year, Americans spent nearly $50 billion on vitamins and supplements. However, the research team says there’s no “magic set of pills to keep you healthy.” Instead, diet and exercise are still the key to good health.

“Patients ask all the time, ‘What supplements should I be taking?’” says lead author Dr. Jeffrey Linder from Northwestern University in a media release. “They’re wasting money and focus thinking there has to be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be following the evidence-based practices of eating healthy and exercising,”

Certain supplements could cause cancer, not prevent it

Multivitamin tablets are particularly popular as they contain a mix of a dozen or so vital nutrients. The Health Food Manufacturers’ Association says more than a third of people feel they do not get all they need through their diet.

However, the systematic review of 84 studies found “insufficient evidence” that taking multivitamins, paired, or single supplements prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. A team from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of experts that makes evidence-based recommendations, carried out that review.

READ: 5 Studies That Suggest Multivitamins Are Not Improving Your Health

“The task force is not saying ‘don’t take multivitamins,’ but there’s this idea that if these were really good for you, we’d know by now,” Linder explains.

They specifically advise against taking beta-carotene supplements because of a possible increased risk of lung cancer.

“The harm is that talking with patients about supplements during the very limited time we get to see them, we’re missing out on counseling about how to really reduce cardiovascular risks, like through exercise or smoking cessation,” the study author continues.

Multivitamins don’t have everything found in your fruit and vegetables

Writing in JAMA, Dr. Linder and colleagues say more than half of American adults take vitamins and supplements, with their popularity projected to increase significantly over the next decade. Eating fruits and vegetables leads to decreased cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, according to the team.

READ: Taking These Supplements Can Lower Risk Of Developing Autoimmune Diseases

So, it is reasonable to think key vitamins and minerals could be extracted and packaged into a pill – saving trouble and expense of maintaining a balanced diet. Unfortunately, researchers explain that whole fruits and vegetables contain a mixture of vitamins, plant chemicals, fiber, and other nutrients that probably combine to boost your health.

Micronutrients in isolation may act differently in the body than when naturally packaged with a host of other dietary components. Dr. Linder notes individuals who have a vitamin deficiency can still benefit from taking dietary supplements such as calcium and vitamin D. Previous studies have shown that they can prevent fractures and falls in older adults.

The revised guidelines do not apply to women who are pregnant or planning to start a family.

“Pregnant individuals should keep in mind that these guidelines don’t apply to them,” says co-author Dr. Natalie Cameron, an instructor of general internal medicine at Northwestern.

READ: 6 Amazing Benefits From Taking Fish Oil Supplements

“Certain vitamins, such as folic acid, are essential for pregnant women to support healthy fetal development. The most common way to meet these needs is to take a prenatal vitamin. More data is needed to understand how specific vitamin supplementation may modify risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and cardiovascular complications during pregnancy.”

Overcoming the cost of eating healthy

Recent research has found most women in the U.S. have poor heart health prior to becoming pregnant. Dr. Cameron says discussing vitamin supplementation and optimizing cardiovascular health prior to pregnancy is an important component of pre-natal care. However, healthy eating can be a challenge when U.S. food manufacturers focus on processed products packed with fat, sugar, and salt.

“To adopt a healthy diet and exercise more, that’s easier said than done, especially among lower-income Americans,” notes co-author Dr. Jenny Jia. “Healthy food is expensive, and people don’t always have the means to find environments to exercise—maybe it’s unsafe outdoors or they can’t afford a facility. So, what can we do to try to make it easier and help support healthier decisions?”

READ: Power Of Positivity: Health Benefits Of Multivitamins ‘May All Be In The Mind’

Dr. Jia has been working with charitable food pantries and banks that supply free groceries to help people pick healthier choices and encourage donors to provide healthier options or money.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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  1. Next time a Dr. tries debunking non “traditional” health, ask them as an American if they think they are smarter than the rest of the entire planet including Asians, Europeans, Indians. Then ask when they first became Jingoist, in Med School, before or after.

  2. I’m 77 and my wife 71. We’ve been free of sickness and diseases for most of our lives. We did not get the mRNA jabs, and CO19 doesn’t bother us even though I think we did get it once, very mild, just a bit of headache and running nose that disappeared quickly thanks to a 12-mg IVM tablet. Do we take supplements? You bet!

  3. There’s a lot of “maybe” and “probably” in this study’s “findings”. The only real finding I could find was that the study found no evidence that taking supplements prevented cardiovascular disease or cancer, which is not the only benefit people seek in taking multivitamins and/or supplements. Then they offer some conjecture, reasoning that they are a waste of time and money because they “probably” don’t even work properly on their own outside of some magical synergy provided by a natural source. Except: “Dr. Linder notes individuals who have a vitamin deficiency can still benefit from taking dietary supplements such as calcium and vitamin D. Previous studies have shown that they can prevent fractures and falls in older adults.” And “Certain vitamins, such as folic acid, are essential for pregnant women to support healthy fetal development.” Hm. Well, that’s confusing. Seems to be an agenda here, and it seems that the goal is to convince us that we are too stupid to care for ourselves and must instead rely on the advice of our wealthy and powerful betters. As if they care. Pass.

  4. Are these the same people who are saying children should be given the mRNA covid vaccine?

    They recommend this even though they know that the covid mortality rate for children under eighteen is approximately one in 68,000. They do this not knowing what long term effects of the vaccine might be. They do this even though they know more children die from pneumonia than from covid.

    I have not heard of anyone who takes supplements because they think they can replace a healthy diet.

    If supplements help keep people healthy, people will need fewer prescriptions, i.e. the profit connection between the studies and the pharmaceutical companies.

  5. No magic pill in vitamins, and in fact it’s so unregulated you have to take the word of the manufactures that the vitamin contains what it says it contains in the amount that is stated.
    I am of the opinion that it probably does not do much good, but it probably won’t hurt you either.
    In most vitamins its even unclear if they don’t simply pass through with little absorption. But even placebos can help people think healthy results so maybe they do some good just not in the way expected. It’s like anything you take whether that be a prescribed drug or a vitamin. Ask yourself how does it improve or hurt your health and lifestyle compared to before? If you expect a vitamin to replace eating healthy, you’re a fool. It won’t replace eating healthy meals and taking in vitamins through those healthy foods. If vitamins were the answer, then we would be a lot healthier considering how many take them and we are not.

  6. It is obvious from the reader comments that this StudyFinds article is rubbish and not credible or newsworthy for this on-line publication. However, unfortunately this is the second time such a nonsense medical news article has appeared on StudyFinds. Last time such an article appeared I responded similar in vain to the reader comments you can view on this web page.

    Every three or four years we find that big pharma funds some university to make a similar study regarding the inefficacy and non-value of taking vitamins. Such studies always discover that vitamins aren’t necessary or they waste consumer’s money.

    What doctors and big pharma want is for you to stay sick or in poor health so they can profit from multiple expensive doctor office visits, along with the medicines they prescribe for you. This obviously benefits big pharma and their shareholders. I would assume that anyone who reads this StudyFinds article is well enough informed to know that this piece of journalism should not appear at this on-line web site. It is bunk, or complete nonsense and not deserving of publication for your wider audience. Why not run such dodgy research by some nutritionists or other savvy doctors who actually publish on the benefits of taking supplements and vitamins. Let’s put some more balance and authority into what you publish in the future. Your readership audience is much more deserving.

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