It’s been a rough week for multivitamins. Two unrelated studies were released monday along with a scathing editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine that demonstrated the lack of efficacy of multivitamins on cognitive function and cardiovascular health. Studies:Long-Term Multivitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Men: A Randomized Trial, High-Dose Multivitamins and Minerals After a Heart Attack
Should we chuck our multivitamins in the bin and move on? The related editorial seems to think so: Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
If you can get past the misleading title of the editorial, it becomes clear that what they have done in the cited studies on multivitamins is essentially useless. Not just useless, but silly. I am not referring to their use of control groups or clinical methods to arrive at results, it’s the basic hypothesis that they are testing which is flawed. Making claims or discrediting claims of multivitamins is futile since the term multivitamin describes a product category with wide variation and no standardization.
The problem is that the word ‘multivitamin’ means nothing more than a mixture of multiple vitamins. So when you run a study using Centrum Silver as the cognitive function study above did, your results shouldn’t reflect all multivitamins, just the vitamins and dosages that Centrum Silver chose to include. For example, they chose to use 500IU of Vitamin D however many Doctors and Nutritionists are recommending 4-5x that amount to maintain adequate levels. If Centrum Silver doesn’t prove beneficial, it’s because of the ingredients they chose to include (or not include), not because of an inherent flaw in all vitamins.
The value and potential for healthy benefits from multivitamins completely depends on what is inside the formula. The reality is that there are a lot of formulas out there that do little more than provide a very basic suite of vitamins and minerals. But that doesn’t mean that multivitamins are useless.
Even one of the studies co-authors, John Michael Gaziano, doesn’t agree with the editorial, “It drives me crazy that they say ‘enough is enough,’ when there’s only been one large study of (standard) multivitamins and it’s ours.” Source
And what about non-standard multivitamins? Since there is no definition of what a standard multivitamin comprises, that’s going to be a tough question!
As the founder of a supplement company focused on reinventing the multivitamin, I have a vested interest in this conversation. Maybe it is wishful thinking that the scientific community will stop blanketing all multivitamins with their limited studies but at least now you can decide whether their results apply to you.