Do multi-vitamins really work?

Medical Journal says multi-vitamins are not what you think.

More than half of all adults in the United States take some sort of multivitamin; many do so in hopes of preventing sickness like the flu, heart disease, cancer or even to help with memory. But a recent editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine says that using supplements and multivitamins to prevent chronic conditions is a complete waste of money. “The (vitamin and supplement) industry is based on anecdote, people saying ‘I take this, and it makes me feel better,’ said Dr. Edgar Miller, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author of the editorial. True, we can never underestimate the power of the human mind. But why not just meditate? Seems like it would be a whole lot cheaper and healthier than wasting money and then telling yourself that it works?

“When you put it to the test, there’s no evidence of benefit in the long term. It can’t prevent mortality, stroke or heart attack.” The editorial, “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” is based on three studies looking at the effects of multivitamins on preventing heart attacks and cancer, as well as improving cognitive function in men older than 65. All three studies were also published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The first study was a meta-analysis of 27 studies that covered more than 450,000 participants and found that multivitamins had no beneficial effect on preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer. In addition, taking vitamins didn’t prevent mortality in any way. (obviously anyone thinking otherwise is wasting their money) One interesting finding that few would ever have though is that the analysis did confirm that smokers who took only beta carotene supplements actually “increased” their risk of lung cancer.

When taking multivitamins to prevent a second heart attack, authors again found no beneficial evidence. The second study looked at 1,700 patients who previously had heart attacks. They were assigned to take three multivitamins or placebos twice a day for five years. However, with more than 50% of patients stopping their medications, it was difficult for authors to come to any real conclusions about the vitamins’ effectiveness. With such a high drop-out rate, “interpretation is very difficult,” said Dr. Miller. The final study followed nearly 6,000 men older than 65, who took either a multivitamin or a placebo for 12 years. The men were administered cognitive functioning tests, and test results found no differences between the two groups. However, Gladys Block, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at University of California Berkeley, pointed out that the group of men followed in the cognitive study were all physicians with no health problems. “These are very well-nourished, very health-conscious people,” she said. In fact, she says none of the studies accurately represents the American population. So basically, she is saying very few Americans eat right and are healthy so they really do need vitamins? Not sure I agree.

Block has spent her life studying the role of Vitamin C, in particular, on disease risk factors and says that most Americans are undernourished. This I will agree with! She says that most Americans don’t have a healthy diet, and therefore don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need. “You’re not getting any of these micronutrients from Coke and Twinkies,” said Block. “Two-thirds of us are overweight, a quarter over 50 have two or more chronic conditions, so there’s a substantial population that one would hesitate to call healthy.” Agreed, so why are we not working harder to educate the population on eating for health? Why is the healthcare industry not helping people learn more about the benefits of a natural raw food diet?

Fruits and vegetables = health and well being

Fruits and vegetables = health and well being

Block went on to say, “There’s always a nontrivial minority that’s actually getting a questionable level of some micronutrients. So multivitamins are a backstop against our poor diet.” Cara Welch, senior vice president of the Natural Products Association, agreed with Block. “It is pretty common that in this day and age with the lifestyle many of us lead that we don’t always take the time to have a balanced diet, and even if you do have a balanced diet, you can still have nutritional deficiencies.” The National Products Association is the largest trade organization representing the manufacturers and retailers of the natural products industry, including vitamins. The vitamin and supplement industry rakes in nearly $12 billion annually, according to the researchers, with multivitamins its most popular product. So obviously they have a vested interest in their existence. “Multivitamins address the nutritional deficiencies in people,” Welch said. “We don’t believe they are the answer to all life’s ailments, as the editorial suggests.”

Hmmm, seems very similar to the doctors who for years swore that smoking was not addictive or harmful, but where on the payroll of big tobacco.

Miller, also disagreed that the studies didn’t represent the general public. “They didn’t select people who eat good diets or bad diets,” he said. “You assume that these people selected are the typical American diet. Taking a supplement in place of a poor diet doesn’t work.” Some groups, however, do need supplements, he said. “For people with deficiencies, malabsorption issues, and to prevent neural tube defects in pregnancy — there are a small number of conditions where we prescribe them.” Miller also said the jury is still out on Vitamin D, which can help strengthen bones, and omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA. Miller said the studies were unlikely to change any clinical standards, and that focusing on diet and exercise remain key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s something with which Block can agree. “Eat fruits and vegetables,” she said.

So now that we have some data to use to educate people, we need to address the key question, “what is a poor diet”? Well for the most part, more than half of Americans do not eat a healthy diet. Several recent reports state that americans are eating better, but these reports are based on one thing. Caloric intake and the main factor was the recession, so people had to cut back. That has nothing to do with eating “quality” food. If you learn the basics about the human body, you will find that without the adequate minerals in the blood stream contained primarily in raw foods and especially raw nuts and legumes, almost all of the described benefits of vitamins can never even get absorbed. Additionally, the more you learn, the more it is understood that vitamins in hard pill form often leave the body in waste before they completely dissolve, so the best form of supplement is food grade capsules that have not been dried or significantly modified. Good luck finding that on the shelves. Modification of the molecular structure of any natural raw food makes it less effective. It doesn’t matter what retired doctor is trying to convince you otherwise. Nor does it matter what rare tree the herb came from in south america. More often than not, these MLM companies are just trying to take your money.

There is a very basic answer to this problem, eat healthy food. To do so, you really need to buy or grow your own fresh fruits and veggies. That is the only sure-fire way to be sure you’re getting the most “optimal” nutrients for health. The rest is up to your genetics (which is another huge factor, too long for this blog) and other consciousness-based factors. Learn more at reCALIBRATEYOURSELF.COM


3 thoughts on “Do multi-vitamins really work?

  1. I love this post because I always say this! Besides, vitamins taste gross and fruits and veggies are delicious! 😊

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