Older women who took multivitamins didn't appear to reduce their risk of common cancers or heart disease, according to new study published in the February 9, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In this eight-year study, 161,808 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 answered questions about their multivitamin supplementation habits while researchers monitored development of cancer, heart attacks and other heart problems.
Almost 42 percent of the women said they took multivitamins regularly.
During the study, the researchers noted 9,619 cases of cancer, including cancers of the breast, lung, ovary, colon and stomach; and 8,751 heart problems including heart attacks and strokes.
Women who took multivitamins were just as likely as their peers who didn't supplement when it came to development of cancer and heart diseases - and risk of dying from these diseases.
"Get nutrients from food," said the study's lead author, a researcher Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "Whole foods are better than dietary supplements."
Cancer and heart disease advocacy groups recommend maintaining a healthy diet, eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and limiting red meat.
According to Statistics Canada, nearly half of Canadian adults have taken a multivitamin in the past month making the supplement industry worth at least $400 million per year.
Research about the effect on multivitamins on health is continuing, with the longest run trial of the sort to be completed in 2012.
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