New Research Concludes: Multivitamins are A Waste Of Money

Centrum multivitamins in Australasian packaging.
Centrum multivitamins in Australasian packaging. (photo credit: wikipedia)

According to researchers involved in three independent studies, taking a daily multivitamin will not help improve the average American’s health.

Capitalizing on the renewed interest by more Americans to start focusing on their long-term health, the dietary supplement industry continues to reap record profits. Over $1.5 billion is spent in the U.S. on dietary supplements and vitamins each year. The sale of multivitamins accounts for half of all vitamin sales in the U.S., which makes the results three recent studies a subject of major concern to millions of consumers.

According to researchers involved in three independent studies, taking a daily multivitamin will not help improve the average American’s health. With no related health benefits, researchers have urged consumers to stop purchasing dietary supplements and to give up taking their daily multivitamin.

Researchers discovered no evidence suggesting that taking a daily multivitamin lowered an individual’s risk of heart disease or memory loss, or that taking the pills could in anyway lengthen an individual’s life span.
The studies – which were published in the December issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine – found that mineral supplements and multivitamins did not work any better at improving an individual’s health than placebo pills.

These studies have only added to a growing body of evidence in recent years that suggests multivitamins offer almost no health benefits, and could actually present a health risk if taken in high doses.

Surprising Conclusions

In response to their study’s findings, researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health said they believe that the evidence clearly suggests multivitamins offer no long-term or short-term health benefits. In a released statement, researchers strongly urged consumers to stop wasting their money on multivitamin purchases, and instead focus their attention on healthy living practices, such as improving their diet, exercising more, and maintaining their oral health.

Perhaps even more surprising than what researchers uncovered about multivitamin use was a statement released by the Council for Responsible Nutrition – a national trade group that represents manufacturers of dietary supplements – which called for consumers to scale back their expectations about what affect multivitamins may have on their long-term health.

While representatives from the council said that the main reasons individuals take multivitamins – to fill gaps in nutritional intake and to promote health and wellness – remain valid reasons to continue taking the pills daily, they did admit that taking supplements may not fill the large nutritional gaps suffered by individuals with less than an perfect diet.

Medical Drugs for Pharmacy Health Shop of Medicine
Medical Drugs for Pharmacy Health Shop of Medicine
(photo credit:

So while taking supplements may help to cover a slight shortfall in needed vitamins and nutrients, they will not provide the kind of nutritional assistance needed to overcome a diet full of saturated fats and light on healthy fruits and vegetables.

Considering how unbalanced the diets of many Americans, it has become clear that individuals in the greatest need to supplemental support of their diets will not receive the nutrients they need from the use of a multivitamin.

Lack of Evidence

In the first study, researchers randomly assigned nearly 6,000 male doctors 65 and over to take either a Centrum Silver multivitamin or a nearly identical looking placebo pill. Every couple of years, researchers would then perform a number of tests on the participants over the phone to assess their memory.
The doctors involved in the study were all in fairly good health at the study’s outset, and 84 percent reported taking their pill daily.

In the following 12 years, researchers found no difference in memory problems between the test and control group. However, researchers did find a modest difference in cancer and cataract rates among the two test groups, with participants taking the multivitamin showing a eight percent lower risk of developing cancer and a nine percent lower risk of cataracts when compared to the placebo group. Not enough information existed to determine whether taking multivitamins had any correlation to this reduce risk.

In the second study, researchers randomly assigned 1,700 survivors of heart attack enrolled in another trial to take a daily regimen of high dosage mineral and vitamin pills, while a second group took a placebo.
Individual’s enrolled in the study were asked to take six large pills a day, and researchers suspect that many participants suffered from pill fatigue by the end of the study, as nearly 50 percent quit taking their pills before the study’s conclusion. The average time participants continued to take their daily pills was around two and a half years.

After 55 months, researchers found no significant difference between the test and control group when comparing the number of deaths, strokes, repeat heart attacks, episodes of chest pain, or surgical procedures performed.

The final study – a review of existing research – examined the collected data from 27 studies on mineral and vitamin supplements that involved over 450,000 participants. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force sponsored study found no direct evidence to support that taking supplements could lower an individual’s risk of heart disease or death. However, a small decrease in the risk of cancer was detected.

Overall, these studies reveal a rather clear and direct message for millions of consumers who take a multivitamin daily – stop wasting your money and start eating healthier diets.


John Nickelbottom is a freelance health and science writer.

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