5 On Your Side

Multivitamins are big business with little benefit

Posted January 9, 2014

Multivitamins and dietary supplements are big business, but Consumer Reports says there's little proof they offer any real health benefit.

Multivitamins and dietary supplements are big business. More than two-thirds of Americans take them, spending over $32 billion last year.

Supermarket aisles are full of them, with endorsements from celebrities including Nicole Kidman and Martha Stewart.

But there’s little proof they offer any real health benefit, according to Consumer Reports.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found fish oil didn't lower the rate of heart attacks or strokes when compared with taking a placebo.

Another study of nearly 15,000 older Americans found multivitamins didn't reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or death.

The National Institutes of Health found that men had a higher risk of dying from heart disease if they took more than 1,000 milligrams of calcium supplements a day.

One of the more serious risks with multivitamins is they can interact with regular medication.
Vitamin E can cause bleeding and shouldn't be taken with blood thinners or aspirin.

Consumer Reports found that 26 percent of people who took a multivitamin or supplement did not mention them to their doctors.

Experts advise patients to tell their doctors about any vitamins or supplements they’re talking.

In addition, nearly half of people in a poll believe the federal government reviews vitamins and supplements before they go on the market, which is not true.

"It may seem easier to meet your daily nutritional requirements from a bottle, but it's actually healthier to eat a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, fish and other healthy foods," said Dr. Orly Avitzur, Consumer Reports medical adviser.


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  • geoherb1 Jan 14, 2014

    My former doctor recommended that I take a multivitamin several years ago. The cost is $10 for a year's supply. I'll see my new doctor in a couple of months and see if he thinks I should continue.

  • zonk Jan 13, 2014

    I disagree for the most part. Yes you can take too high of an amount that is not needed but I swear by Vit. C tabs to reduce colds etc.

  • markw1018 Jan 13, 2014

    I totall and completely disagree that health supplements have little benefit. Speaking from personal experience, I notice a remarkable difference whether I supplment my diet with supplments or not. I feel better, have more energy, and greater sense of well being when I take my supplements. Not only do I feel better and have a higher energy level than people in my age group. Mysteriously I look younger than my age, and it amuses me when I tell people who old I am - they don't believe me. I will continue to include supplements in my health regimen at least until the government tries to screw that up, as they've tried multiple times over the past several decades, including requiring a doctor's prescription. Makes me want to throw furniture. Leave the citizens ALONE.

  • kbird Jan 13, 2014

    I was extremely depressed after having my first child & living in an are with little sun for a couple of years. My dr. Checked my vitamin d & b 12 levels & both were extremely low. I had to take b12 shots & vitamin d pills & now i take pills daily for both. It is amazing how much better i feel. I do agree vitamins alone can't cure everything but i don't agree that they are no help at all. I think it depends on the situation.

  • thewayitis Jan 10, 2014

    Fish oil may not lower the rate for heart attacks and strokes but it definitely helps rheumatoid arthritis.

  • BernsteinIII Jan 10, 2014

    There are a ton of studies that show that taking vitamins is completely unnecessary, except in very specific cases.

    In fact, taking vitamins actually can cause cancer tumors to increase in size faster.

    I quit taking vitamins a while ago and I don't feel any different.

  • davido Jan 10, 2014

    Interesting to hear that about fish oil, which is generally accepted (I think) in the medical community as being "good" to take. My doc recommended it for me. 2000 mg a day. (I usually take one, 1000-1200 mg)

    .. but yes, eating lots of fruits and veggies will beat supplements any day.

    Hey, quit with the french fries and soft drinks OK?

  • Lightfoot3 Jan 10, 2014

    "Experts advise patients to tell their doctors about any vitamins or supplements they’re talking" - article

    I assume WRAL meant "taking". :) My doctor said I should be taking multi-vitamins.