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A recent study conducted on more than 180,000 people has denied the role of multivitamins in protecting against cancer or heart disease.

Study denies the role of multivitamins in protecting against cancer or heart disease

Much against the popular conception, it found no change in the incidence of people dying from cancer or heart disease, irrespective of the fact that they were taking multivitamins or not. Nor could the role of multivitamins in protecting against chronic diseases like diabetes be established.

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Earlier studies have shown the role of specific vitamins against cancer and various diseases of the heart. However, they were targeted against a special group of people, like people who were undernourished or post menopausal women. But the recently concluded study made no such discrimination and was done in normal healthy U.S. adults. It was found that indiscriminate popping of multivitamins by the general population offers them no increased protection against such diseases. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, multivitamins should be prescribed only to three classes of patients:

•    Those who require extra dose of specific vitamins
•    Those who cannot absorb these vitamins through their digestive tracts because of some ailment
•    Those who cannot eat sufficient quantity of food to meet the body’s demand for these vitamins

The rest of the population should be encouraged to meet their vitamin needs through a well balanced and healthy diet.

The expenditure on multivitamin tablets is not justified

Around 616,000 people succumb to heart diseases while about 560,000 people die of cancer in the U.S. every year.

Consumption of multivitamins and other nutritional supplements has shown an increasing trend over the years with almost 50% Americans resorting to it on a regular basis. This trend is even more common in women. Around 53% females were found to be taking multivitamin supplements as compared to 44% males.

Multivitamin supplements range from $3 to $16 per month depending upon their nature. On an average, around $4.7 billion were spent on multivitamins in the year 2008 in U.S. alone. This huge expenditure on multivitamins is not justified. The relationship between multivitamins and mortality due to chronic diseases could not be established by any study. Consuming multivitamins regularly does not seem to offer any protection against these deadly diseases.

Aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies has led to a general belief that multivitamin tablets can protect the people from chronic ailments. But it is important to remember that just taking multivitamins on a regular basis will not suffice. Consuming multivitamins beyond their requirement by the body can also lead to harmful side effects, especially in the case of fat soluble vitamins as they tend to get deposited in the body. For example, excess of vitamin A can lead to hip fractures and various birth defects. Therefore, indiscriminate use of multivitamins is not justified.

Instead, one should focus on building a healthy life style and eating a diet full of natural vitamin sources. The body should be allowed to absorb the required amount of vitamins from a diet comprising of a lot of dark green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, peas, lentils, etc. The nutritional status of an individual should be carefully examined to correct the vitamin deficiency.
  • Song-Yi Park,Suzanne P. Murphy, Lynne R. Wilkens, Brian E. Henderson, Laurence N. Kolonel. Multivitamin Use and the Risk of Mortality and Cancer Incidence. (The Multiethnic Cohort Study). February 22, 2011. American Journal of Epidemiology
  • Photo courtesy of aSIMULAtor by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/asimulator/3937374793/