A Reminder to Dump Your Multivitamin
The Medical Letter is a biweekly publication which publishes the most unbiased reviews of medications. It is not supported by advertising and prides itself in giving objective evidence-based information. I think it’s mandatory reading for anyone with a prescription pad. Several of my posts have been inspired by Medical Letter articles, and this week they’ve come through again with a review of vitamins titled “Who Should Take Vitamin Supplements?” The article reviews in detail the clinical trials which have tested the effects of the most commonly taken vitamins. I summarize these below.
Vitamin E supplements have been shown to ” target=”_blank”>not to decrease the risk of stroke or heart attack, and ” target=”_blank”>essential in older people in preventing fractures and falls. Many people with limited sun exposure are deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin C has been shown not to prevent the incidence of cancer, strokes, or heart attacks. It does not significantly decrease the risk of developing a cold or significantly improve cold symptoms. High doses can predispose to kidney stones.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older patients and can lead to anemia and nerve dysfunction.
Folate should be “In healthy people living in developed countries and eating a normal diet, the benefit of taking vitamin supplements is well established only to ensure an adequate intake of folic acid in young women and of vitamins D and B12 in the elderly. There is no good reason to take vitamins A, C or E routinely. No one should take high-dose beta-carotene supplements. Long-term consumption of any biologically active substance should not be assumed to be free from risk.”
That last sentence deserves our attention. Many people assume that even if vitamins aren’t helpful, they are at least harmless. The Medical Letter reminds us that this assumption should be tested, and when tested is sometimes proven false.