If you’ve read the recent headlines proclaiming that multivitamin/mineral supplements offer no apparent health benefit and may potentially be harmful, you may be asking yourself: Should I take a multivitamin daily? What’s the point? Are multivitamins/minerals a waste of my time and money?
The truth is that many experts believe the recent multivitamin/mineral conclusions are flat-out wrong and ignore the totality of the evidence from decades of nutrition research. Dr. Balz Frei, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, recently crafted a concise response. According to Dr. Frei, the case is far from closed for vitamin and mineral supplements despite the recent editorial in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” in which the authors conclude that “we believe that the case is closed—supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful”.
Why you most certainly should take a multivitamin/mineral daily:
Dr. Frei gives some simple reasons to take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement. First, he stresses that it will help fill the known nutritional gaps in the average American diet. Filling these known gaps with a daily multivitamin/mineral helps assure normal biological function and metabolism and supports good health, he says. He points to research clearly showing that most Americans fail to get all of their recommended vitamins and minerals from their diet, and he cites other studies showing that those nutritional gaps can be safely, effectively, and inexpensively filled with a multivitamin/mineral.
Second, Dr. Frei shows how in addition to filling nutrient gaps, taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement does something that no existing pharmaceutical can do: it decreases the risk of certain chronic diseases. He points to evidence from the Physicians’ Health Study II, the largest and longest randomized controlled trial of multivitamin/mineral supplements conducted to date. This important study, which was ignored by the editorialists, showed significant decreases in both cancer and cataracts—impressive findings that are consistent with those of several other randomized, controlled trials, says Frei.
Other nutrition researchers and health experts have also come out with rebuttals since the editorial was published in early December, 2013. Many have written about the numerous positive studies showing the wide range of health benefits in addition to cancer and cataract protection that may be gained by regular use of a multivitamin/mineral supplement. Others have pointed out multiple problems with the multivitamin studies used by the editorialists to discourage supplement use, including poor adherence criteria, the use of low-potency vitamins and minerals, and more. Overall, the recent editorial and subsequent media buzz ignores much of the research on vitamins, minerals, and health. “To call “the case … closed” and label multivitamin/mineral supplements as useless, harmful or wasteful is highly premature and unscientific, and does not serve public health,” concludes Dr. Frei.