Multivitamins and Supplements a Waste of Money for Most People
With a few exceptions, they don’t improve health, research finds
Americans spend some $50 billion a year on vitamins and dietary supplements. Most of that money would be better spent on fruits and vegetables, stress-reducing activities or just about anything else deemed good for you.
Yet half of adults lean on dubious pills to supplement their arguably unhealthy diets, sometimes based on little more than a hunch, a TV ad or advice from a friend. Jeffrey Linder, MD, chief of general internal medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says patients frequently ask what supplements they should take.
“They’re wasting money and focus thinking there has to be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be following the evidence-based practices of eating healthy and exercising,” Linder says.
In a June 21 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Linder and colleagues echo the latest recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts that reviewed 84 studies and found “insufficient evidence” that supplements or multivitamins prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer in healthy, non-pregnant adults.
“The task force is not saying ‘don’t take multivitamins,’” Linder says in a statement, “but there’s this idea that if these were really good for you, we’d know by now.”
There are people who can benefit from vitamins or supplements, including those who are deficient in calcium or vitamin D. Pregnant people may need supplements under the direction of a physician. And melatonin supplements, in proper doses, can be useful for people who struggle to fall asleep, but experts say they shouldn’t be viewed as the only solution nor a cure-all.
Evidence does suggest multivitamins might offer a small potential to extend life, but the evidence is imperfect, imprecise and subject to multiple interpretations, the new report concludes.
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