Are Multivitamins Safe?
Read labels carefully, and avoid loading up on multiple supplements with the same nutrients
Public opinion about multivitamins has swung from one extreme to another, leaving many to wonder whether they are a must-have health item, or something best left on the shelf. A large study has attempted to answer this question once and for all, and the results are reassuring that multivitamins are safe, and may offer health benefits as well.
Multivitamins, multiminerals, meta-analysis, and mortality
The study authors used a research method called meta-analysis to combine 21 controlled clinical trials on multivitamins and mortality--risk of death due to any cause. Only trials in which participants took a multivitamin-multimineral supplement every day, and which had a minimum duration of one year, were part of the analysis.
The 21 trials created a total sample of 91,074 adults who took multivitamin-multimineral supplements for an average of 43 months (3.6 years). Participants' average age was 62 years, and 8,794 deaths occurred during the studies. From this large pool of data, the researchers concluded that compared with adults assigned to take multivitamin-multimineral supplements, those who did not take the supplements experienced:
Considering multivitamins, finding balance
This large, comprehensive study found that death rates were no different for older adults taking multivitamin-multiminerals compared with adults not taking these supplements. Does this mean you should ditch your multivitamins? Not necessarily. The researchers also noted a trend toward decreased mortality in the supplement group. This finding isn't statistically significant, but still, it suggests that contrary to previous observational studies, multivitamins may offer benefit. And it's reassuring to note that unlike the previous studies, this large meta-analysis did not note any increase in mortality among supplement users. Our tips can help decode the multivitamin puzzle as it applies to you and your family:
(Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:437-44)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.