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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Multivitamins don't work

Updated: Jul 8

vitamin pills

The article "Multivitamin Use and Mortality Risk in 3 Prospective US Cohorts" evaluates the association between regular multivitamin use and mortality risk among nearly 400,000 healthy US adults over more than 20 years. The study concluded that daily multivitamin intake doesn't lower the risk of death from any cause, including cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular diseases. I tend to agree with these conclusions because:

Dietary supplementation without proper evaluation of an individual's unique and constantly changing nutritional requirements is destined to fail.

In addition, all studies have their limitations, and this one is no exception.

Here are some limitations of the study:

  1. Observational Nature: This study is observational, meaning it can identify associations but not causations. Even though the researchers adjusted for various confounding factors like demographics and lifestyle, unmeasured variables might still influence the results.

  2. Healthy User Bias: People who take multivitamins regularly might also engage in other health-promoting behaviours (such as a better diet and regular exercise), which could confound the results. Although the study tried to control for these factors, residual confounding might persist.

  3. Unhealthy User Bias: Conversely, individuals who engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as alcohol abuse or smoking, might take multivitamins in an attempt to compensate for their poor lifestyle choices. This compensatory behaviour can skew results as it introduces another layer of bias where the true impact of multivitamins, and the adverse effects of unhealthy habits might be masked.

  4. General Health of Participants: The study population comprised generally healthy individuals with no history of chronic diseases at baseline. This limits the generalisability of the findings to individuals with existing health conditions or nutritional deficiencies who might benefit differently from multivitamin supplementation.

  5. Self-Reported Data: The reliance on self-reported data for multivitamin use can introduce recall bias and inaccuracies in the frequency and duration of use reported by participants.

  6. What is a multivitamin?: Multivitamins vary in quality and content, and this might have a positive or negative effect on health, or no effect at all.

  7. Specific Nutrient Deficiencies Not Addressed: The study didn't focus on people's specific nutrient deficiencies. Multivitamins might still be beneficial for certain populations with identified deficiencies, but this wasn't the primary focus of the analysis.

  8. Follow-Up Duration Variability: Although the follow-up period was lengthy, it varied across the three cohorts. Differences in follow-up times could impact the consistency of results across these groups.

Merely taking a multivitamin is like trying to shoot a basket while blindfolded. It's a very hit-and-miss approach to supplementation and is doomed to be ineffective. Without targeting specific deficiencies or considering individual health needs, the blanket approach of multivitamin use fails to ensure that one is getting the necessary nutrients in the right amounts.

This study reinforces the notion that a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle are more effective strategies for promoting long-term health than relying on multivitamin supplements alone. If supplementation is to be undertaken, it's best that testing first evaluates a person's nutrient needs. Test, then prescribe!

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