Taking a multivitamin every day doesn't seem to ward off thinking and memory problems. Nor will it prevent further heart disease or death among people who have already had a heart attack.
To look at whether vitamins affect thinking and memory skills, researchers randomly assigned about 6,000 older male doctors to take either a standard multivitamin or vitamin-free placebo as part of a larger men's health study. Then they gave the men up to four memory tests over the next 12 years.
Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found no cognitive differences between the vitamin and placebo groups at any time point. Nor did scores on the memory tests drop any faster among men in one group versus the other.
The second new study included both men and women who'd had a heart attack. About 1,700 of them were randomly assigned to take supplements - this time high doses of vitamins and minerals - or placebo pills.
Over an average of four and a half years, 27 percent of people taking vitamins died or had another heart attack or other cardiovascular problem. That compared to 30 percent of participants taking placebos - a difference that could have been due to chance.
The researchers from the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach concluded there is no need to be taking multivitamins and multiminerals to prevent heart disease.
The researchers also stated because of the possible cancer-related benefits tied to multivitamins, they are still worth considering - in particular for people who may not get enough vitamins in their diet.
A prior study by his team found an 8 percent lower risk of cancer among men assigned to take multivitamins, as well as a lower risk of cataracts.
The main reasons people report talking multivitamins are for overall health and wellness and to fill nutrient gaps.
Research shows North Americans often don't get all recommended nutrients from their diets, and that a multivitamin helps fill those gaps.
Leslie’s comment: It’s well documented that taking a daily multivitamin does not prevent heart disease. I recommend – and will continue to do so – multivitamins to help bridge nutrient gaps in people’s diets. While it’s ideal to try to meet your daily nutrient requirements from food, for some people this is hard to do.
Pregnant women (folic acid), nursing mothers, strict vegetarians, people with food intolerance and allergies, individuals on low calorie weight loss diets and elderly adults often need to fill dietary gaps with a multivitamin and mineral pill. Menstruating women need 18 milligrams of iron per day, an amount that’s challenging – if not impossible – to get from foods alone. People with certain health conditions or who take medications that alter their need for certain vitamins or minerals may also need to rely on certain supplements. Older adults, people with dark skin and those with inadequate sun exposure require extra vitamin D.
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, online December 16, 2013.
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