The Iowa Women's Health Study of 2011 recorded some interesting findings. Women who used multivitamins regularly tend to die a bit earlier than those who did not. This study will be the basis for our discussion. The question is, should we continue to take multis?
Almost half of all Americans take vitamin supplements. Are they buying their way to quicker death? Luckily, the answer is NO.
The Iowa Women’s Study had some faults. It did not research the multivitamin issue in depth. No consideration was made as to whether the women on multis were initially healthy at the time they started on vitamin suplements. Most of them were probably taking the supplements to mitigate the effects of one existing disease or another. The survey was only observational and cannot be used to make any valid conclusions.
Scientifically, co-occurrence is not always a sign of causation. Just because a higher mortality among a group of women on multis was noticed does not mean the vitamins are to blame. The only sure way to lay the question to rest, however, is a placebo-controlled, double-blind experiment. Luckily for us, such trials have been done later.
In 2013, random, controlled trials involving over 90,000 participants were carried out. The results showed no evidence of increased mortality caused by multivitamins use. However, the multis also did not seem to lower risks of heart disease, cancer, or lengthen the lifespan. The vitamin supplements did not do what their manufacturers claimed they would.
Other researchers have supported those findings. The review for the PSSTF (US Preventive Services Task Force) in December of the same year is one such research.
Before we conclude that multivitamins are a waste of money, however, let us look at some more facts. A study by the US Department of Agriculture shows that today plants are less nutritious than they were some decades ago. Spinach in the 60s was seven times more nutrient-dense than it is now. As our vegetables decrease in nutrient value, it becomes even more necessary to find means of supplementing essential vitamins we need.
Some multis also contain other compounds that have some health benefits but no nutritional value. Palmetto is one such compound. It is common in multivitamins for men. Palmetto has been proven to be very effective at maintaining healthy prostates.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is another common component of multis for men. It supports the development of testosterone.
There are also other compounds, like the two above, in multivitamins. Multis are, therefore, should be looked upon as more than just nutritional supplements. Are they worth the money? Well, this question is rather tricky and hard to answer for sure. But the certain point is that they are harmless at the very least and don’t reduce the lifespan.