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Multivitamins: Healthy Habit or Waste of Money?

It has long been assumed that taking a multivitamin each day is a healthy habit. Such sentiment is what drives the multibillion-dollar dietary supplement industry, which took in a whopping $23.4 billion worth in sales last year, 50 percent of which was comprised of multivitamin sales.[1] [2]  We seem thoroughly convinced of the value of multivitamins, with more than half of Americans reporting they take some sort of multivitamin on a regular basis.[3]

Three new studies have cast further doubt upon the purported health benefits said to be reaped from taking a multivitamin. The separately conducted studies all arrived at the same conclusion: there is no evidence to suggest there is any benefit to be gained from taking a daily multivitamin. Taking a multivitamin was found to be no more beneficial to one’s health than taking a placebo pill.

The three studies were published in the December 17 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, along with an editorial written by the authors of the studies that outlined their findings. The editorial advised people to stop wasting their money on multivitamins and recommended that people avoid taking them altogether. Dispelling popular notions, researchers found no evidence that taking a multivitamin helped reduce the risk of heart disease or prevented memory loss. Multivitamins were not shown to prolong one’s life either.

Not only did researchers argue that multivitamins provided a person no tangible benefit, they went even further in suggesting that taking a multivitamin could actually be detrimental, as a person could receive doses beyond the recommended daily amount, potentially leading to negative health consequences. Trials linked high doses of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin A to an increased risk of death among study participants.

The idea that we can remedy imbalances in our diets simply by taking a pill is an attractive idea, especially considering how many Americans fail to maintain a balanced, well-rounded diet. In a perfect world, the deficiencies we rack up in essential minerals and nutrients could be restored to proper levels simply by swallowing a single pill. Unfortunately, the latest research indicates this is nothing more than pure fantasy.

Before you write off all supplements, consider this: evidence remains that vitamin D supplements can do the body good and could still prove worthwhile.

So for all those who draw upon the latest findings in determining how to best live a healthy lifestyle, it appears you can officially write off the daily multivitamin. Curious what the two most important components of a healthy lifestyle are? No big surprise here: diet and exercise.


[1] HealthDay, WebMD News. “Experts: Don’t Waste Your Money on Multivitamins.”WebMD. WebMD, 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

[2] Stoxen, Colleen. “Vitamins May Be a Waste of Your Money.” StarTribune.com. The Star Tribune, 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

[3] Kounang, Nadia, and Jen Christensen. “Are Multivitamins a Waste of Money? Editorial in Medical Journal Says Yes.” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

 

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