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. We need to put things in perspective. The majority do not eat a healthy diet, much less the majority do not know what one looks like. With the consumption of “junk” food: refined white flour, high sugar content in foods, vegetables that are nor really fresh (they lose nutritional content: University of California studies show that vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C, for instance, within a week. Some spinach can lose 90 percent within the first 24 hours after harvest). Consuming processed frozen food, deli meat, chips, and snacks with excess sugar and salt takes a toll on the body and rid the body of essential nutrients. Remember the RDA is the minimum recommended daily allowance. Most people lack vitamin D in their diet. Other examples of poor food quality is the addition of additives to our diet that has shown to deplete the body of vital vitamins and minerals. Artificial colorings, nitrates, high levels of Guar Gum (can has shown to cause obstruction of the esophagus or small intestine),and high fructose corn syrup, among others.

    An occasional cupcake will not harm you, but the constant consumption of junk food has shown to cause nutrient depletion and imbalance. With this in mind, I do not believe that the addition of multivitamins is a waste. What I do believe is that it is difficult to find the correct multivitamin that contains what it says it contains.

  2. I will admit that I’ve been trying supplements for more than a year. I had Covid 2021, really severe. I also have asbestosis. I’ve been trying to find something to make living more comfortable. The supplements for energy, weight control, relief of muscular pain, none of the work, expensive olive oil, MCT, Blood flow supplements. I’ve spent a lot of money.

  3. I suspect that most people who take supplements are intelligent enough to know that such isn’t a substitute for proper diet and exercise. The article seemed rather condescending.

  4. I take vit D because tests by my doctor showed that I’m low. Other than that, I don’t see the point of taking multiple vitamins or these ‘fruits and veggies in a capsule’ as much as their marketing makes it sound wonderful for your health. Do I eat ‘healthy’? No, but I eat in moderation. I have maintained the same weight for the last 50 years. IMO Genetics trump everything else.

  5. I can’t believe the myth of healthy food being expensive is being perpetuated by a doctor. If anything, healthy food costs less. It just requires more effort. We eat for very low cost and we do it by avoiding processed foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not expensive. Canned beans are still relatively healthy as are most frozen vegetables.

  6. So, multivitamins are worthless, eh? Except if you’re pregnant. They’re OK then. Oh, and my doctor prescribed heavy duty Vitamin D, so that’s OK. My mother’s doctor prescribed her heavy duty potassium, so that’s OK. I guess they’re worthless unless you spend $200 to see a doctor so they can prescribe individual vitamins that cost 10x more than a bottle of multivitamins. I see how it works.

    Between this nonsense and the pandemic fraud, I don’t have a lot of faith in, or respect for, doctors any longer.

  7. Who are these wonderful people who are so worried we might spend a few dollars a month on supplements? They are the same wonderful people who were unable to deal with a very delicate virus that killed millions of people. And, they are worried about a few dollars a month for vitamins in a nation which spends an average of 30,000 dollars a year on health care for people over 65, which produces sick old people who can barely walk.

    For those who are products of the modern public school system, that is 2500 dollars a month, but we gotta’ stop that terrible waste of 5 bucks a month.

  8. Supplements=Placebo effect. It’s their money, let them spend it how they will.

    The industry, by in large, is analogous to the people who feel like they are doing some good by “tithing” hard earned money to support a television evangelist, when in fact all they are doing is lining the pockets of the Jimmy Bakers of this world. They feel better, but the people at the top of the scheme are wealthy beyond belief.

  9. Remember this is the same Allopathic drug, cut, burn, poison & radiate industry whose “Doctors” used to sell their preference in CIGARETTES!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. I feel better when I take natural vitamins , herbal and minerals. Supplements
    My body feels better over all .
    Much better than when I haven’t taken supplement.
    My mood improves , my skin looks healthier. My body doesn’t hurt I don’t have body pain when I add supplement to my diet. I have had blood work done and my body is working like it’s suppose to . People don’t get all the nutrients from food they need especially with what is being put in our food .
    Natural remedies for health work and do make your body function better . I know that for a fact because how my body feels when taking natural supplements and how my body feels when I’ve slack off on taking natural supplements. They do work !

  15. 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.

  16. 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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