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A large number of high-profile studies show that a variety of popular supplements like calcium, selenium and vitamins A, C and E don't do much to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke or a variety of cancers.

When it comes to multivitamins, the most popular dietary supplements sold in America, which contain 10 to 30 vitamins and minerals, a report suggests they shouldn't be as popular.

In the Women's Health Initiative, a long-term study performed to identify risk factors for cancer, heart disease and bone health in postmenopausal women, the researchers tracked 161,808 female participants of white, black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian origin that had been followed for an average of nearly eight years.

Overall, 41.5 % of study participants took some version of a multivitamin. Those women were more likely to be white and college-educated, live in the West, exercise and have a lower body mass index.

However, these women, who took multivitamins, weren't any more likely to ward off a diagnosis of breast, ovarian, lung, stomach, bladder, kidney, colorectal or endometrial cancer than were women who hadn’t taken the multivitamins.

Multivitamins haven’t either been found helpful in preventing heart attacks, strokes, blood clots or reducing the risk of death from any cause during the study period.

One modest benefit has been found though by the researchers. The 3,741 women who took stress multivitamins, formulations with higher doses of several B vitamins along with an extra jolt of vitamin C, were 25% less likely to have a heart attack. No other correlations between vitamins and health outcomes were statistically significant.

The study authors conclude on the basis of the convincing evidence that the usage of multivitamins has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, cardiovascular disease or total mortality in postmenopausal women.

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I think in the western world where those high profile studies were conducted, foods are plentiful, and people pretty much got all the vitamins that they need from the foods that they eat. So taking multivitamins would not have decreased their chances of getting cancer, heart and bone diseases. On the other hand, I think multivitamins would have made a difference in developing countries where nutritional deficiency and starvation are the norms.
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