Three studies published on Monday bear the following hand-to-open-mouth news:
1. Multivitamins do nothing to stave off cognitive decline associated with aging.
3. High doses of multivitamins did not help prevent a second heart attack.
Harvard researchers examined a subset of nearly 6,000 male doctors, age 65 or older, who were part of a larger study. The men were given either multivitamins or dummy pills, without knowing which they were taking. After a decade of pill use, the vitamin-takers fared no better on memory or other cognitive tests, Sesso’s team reported Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
“Enough is enough,” declares an editorial accompanying the studies in Annals of Internal Medicine. “Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.” Journal deputy editor Dr. Cynthia Mulrow said, “Most people who buy multivitamins and other supplements are generally healthy. Even junk foods often are fortified with vitamins, while the main nutrition problem in the U.S. is too much fat and calories”, she added.
40% of Americans spend$28 billion a year on vitamin combinations, presumably to boost their health and fill gaps in their diets, which is a lot to spend on a worthless medical treatment. The government does not recommend routine vitamin supplementation as a way to prevent chronic diseases.
According to Steven Salzberg, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, “I think this is a great example of how our intuition leads us astray,” Salzberg told Shots. “It seems reasonable that if a little bit of something is good for you, then more should be better for you. It is not true. Supplementation with extra vitamins or micronutrients does not really benefit you if you do not have a deficiency.”Salzberg points to James Lind, a Scottish physician who proved in 1747 that citrus juice could cure scurvy, which had killed more sailors than all wars combined. It was not until much later that scientists discovered that the magic ingredient was vitamin C.
Lack of vitamin D causes rickets. Lack of niacin causes pellagra, which was a big problem in the Southern U.S. in the early 1900s. Deficiency of vitamin A causes blindness. And a lack of folic acid can cause spina bifida, a crippling deformity. But better nutrition and vitamin-fortified foods have made these problems pretty much history.
Now when public health officials talk about vitamin deficiencies and health, they are talking about specific populations and specific vitamins. According to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young women tend to be low on iodine, the key for brain development in a fetus. And Mexican-American women and young children are more likely to be iron deficient. But even in that group, 11% are children and 13 percent are women.
Recent studies have shown that too much beta-carotene and vitamin E can cause cancer. Excess vitamin A can cause liver damage, coma, and death. That is what happened to Arctic explorers when they ate too much polar bear liver(vitamin A).
“You need a balance,” Salzberg says. “The vast majority of people taking multivitamins and other supplemental vitamins do not need them. I do not need them, so I stopped.”
According to Dr. Alfred Johnson of Johnson Medical Associates in Richardson, individuals should be assessed through laboratory tests to determine whether they have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Other tests can determine their body’s genetic ability “to detoxify environmental exposures.” Those who have medical conditions especially need to be tested.
Dr. Johnson also states that elderly with poor diets as well as diabetics with compromised metabolic systems can often benefit from taking multivitamins. Those who need to be especially careful about them include individuals with poor kidney function.
The preventive services task force cited no safety issues with standard multivitamins. But specialists say to always tell your doctor what over-the-counter supplements you use. Some vitamins also interact with some medications. Sesso said anyone worried about nutrition should be discussing their diet with their doctor anyway.