WASHINGTON – Theres more disappointing news about multivitamins: Two major studies found popping the pills didnt protect aging mens brains or help heart attack survivors.
Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamin combinations, presumably to boost their health and fill gaps in their diets. But while people who dont eat enough of certain nutrients may be urged to get them in pill form, the government doesnt recommend routine vitamin supplementation as a way to prevent chronic diseases.
The studies released Monday are the latest to test whether multivitamins might go that extra step and concluded they dont.
Evidence is sufficient to advise against routine supplementation, said a sharply worded editorial that accompanied Mondays findings in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
After all, most people who buy multivitamins and other supplements are generally healthy, said journal deputy editor Dr. Cynthia Mulrow. Even junk foods often are fortified with vitamins, while the main nutrition problem in the U.S. is too much fat and calories, she added.
But other researchers say the jurys still out, especially for the countrys most commonly used dietary supplement – multivitamins that are taken by about a third of U.S. adults, and even more people over the age of 50.
Indeed, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is deliberating whether vitamin supplements make any difference in the average persons risk of heart disease or cancer. In a draft proposal last month, the government advisory group said for standard multivitamins and certain other nutrients, theres not enough evidence to tell. (It did caution that two single supplements, beta-carotene and vitamin E, didnt work). A final decision is expected next year.
For better or for worse, supplementations not going to go away, said Dr. Howard Sesso of Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, who helps lead a large multivitamin study that has had mixed results – suggesting small benefits for some health conditions but not others – and says more research is needed, especially among the less healthy.