Do you take a multivitamin? You're not alone. Between 33-50% of all Americans take them on a regular basis. They're big business, accounting for almost 6 billion dollars in sales every year. In fact, multivitamins comprise 40% of all sales of vitamin and mineral supplements and nearly 17% of all purchases of dietary supplements.
But are they necessary to maintain good health? A study published this week adds to the increasing amount of research that finds no health benefits in a daily multivitamin. The study, which reviewed 18 studies with over 2 million subjects, found that there was no link between taking a multivitamin and a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
This isn't the first time that multivitamins have come under fire. The Physician's Health Study (2007) found that there were no dementia-prevention benefits in a daily multivitamin marketed to seniors. The U.S. Preventative Task Force finds that there is no benefit to regular multivitamin use.
But shouldn't you take a multivitamin, just in case? Research doesn't support that practice either. The majority of supplement users are already healthy people with healthy diets, but who perceive supplements to be “insurance” against poor health.Those who take multivitamins are usually already doing positive things for their health, like not smoking, avoiding heavy alcohol consumption, and exercising. In other words, those who take multivitamins are the least likely actually to need them. Also important to note that is that the vitamins and minerals that are often lacking in our daily diets (Vitamin D, choline) are also not found in large amounts in multivitamins.
Should anyone take a multivitamin? Pregnant women (or women who are thinking of becoming pregnant) should take a multivitamin with folic acid to prevent congenital disabilities such as spina bifida. Those with documented vitamin/mineral deficiencies may also require supplementation. Work with your provider to discuss what is best for you.