With benefits unproven, why do millions of Americans take multivitamins?
Large study found supplement use most often a personal choice, not a doctor recommendation.
(HealthDay)—Millions of Americans take multivitamins and other supplements, but convincing scientific evidence of any true health benefit is lacking, experts say. Now a new study explores why people continue to consume nutritional supplements.
"Most people were using supplements because they believe it will improve their health, but we really don't know whether that's true," said study lead author Regan Bailey, a nutritional epidemiologist in the Office of Dietary Supplements at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
"Moreover, the vast majority of supplements used in the U.S. are based on personal choice, not because they are recommended by health care professionals," she added.
Nearly half of U.S. adults use dietary supplements, Bailey noted, and supplements are a $30-billion-a-year business.
"People have very strong beliefs about these products and I don't know where they are getting their information," Bailey said. "It's not from the doctors. The majority of scientific data available do not support the role of dietary supplements for improving health or preventing of disease."
Another expert said supplements can be expensive.
"A multivitamin might cost $20 a month. Why not spend that on more fresh produce?" said Marian Neuhouser, of the cancer prevention program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle. "If someone is eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains—a wide variety of foods—they should be getting all the nutrition they need."
The new report was published online Feb. 4 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
To examine why Americans take multivitamins, Bailey's team collected data on nearly 12,000 adults who took part in the 2007 to 2010 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The researchers found that 45 percent of those taking a multivitamin did so because they believed it would improve their health, and 33 percent did so because they thought it would maintain their health.
Only 23 percent said their decision was based on advice from their doctor. When they recommend supplements, doctors are most likely to recommend calcium for bone health (24 percent) or to improve overall health (18 percent), or fish oil for heart health (12 percent) or to supplement diet (11 percent), Bailey said.
It's hard to tell whether vitamins actually improve health, because "adults who use dietary supplements tend to report more healthy lifestyles," Bailey said. "They report better overall health, more exercise, moderate alcohol consumption and are more likely to [have never smoked] or be former smokers."
A clear role exists for some dietary supplements—such as folic acid to reduce the risk of birth defects. Calcium and vitamin D play an important role in bone health, Bailey said.
Duffy MacKay, a spokesman for the supplement industry, said taking a multivitamin and other supplements is part of a healthy lifestyle.
"People who take a multivitamin in combination with a healthy diet, exercising regularly and practicing stress management are people who live long and prosperous," said MacKay, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
Two recent studies highlight the ongoing debate on the value of multivitamins.
One, published in the Nov. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that multivitamins will do nothing to help stave off heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
Yet another study published in the Oct. 17 issue of the same journal found that men who take multivitamins every day for several years may lower their risk of cancer by a small amount.
Another expert weighed in on the discussion.
Although vitamin and mineral supplements may be of benefit in certain instances, they cannot take the place of eating a variety of healthy foods every day, said Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn.
"I wish that a portion of the $30 billion spent on dietary supplements was spent on healthy foods and gym memberships," Heller said.
More information: For more about multivitamins, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- CDC: Half of US adults take vitamins, supplements Apr 13, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Multivitamin use not associated with women's risk of cancer, heart disease or death Feb 09, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Study finds usage of, recommendations for supplements common within various physician specialties Mar 10, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Vitamin C supplements linked to kidney stones Feb 04, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
- Monitoring the population's food and supplement intakes Mar 08, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
The gap between life expectancy in patients with a mental illness and the general population has widened since 1985 and efforts to reduce this gap should focus on improving physical health, suggest researchers in a paper ...
Health 11 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Failure to use linked electronic health records may lead to biased estimates of heart attack incidence and outcome, warn researchers in a paper published in BMJ today.
Health 11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
Dietary advice on added sugar is damaging our health, warns a cardiologist in BMJ today. Dr. Aseem Malhotra believes that "not only has this advice been manipulated by the food industry for profit but it is actually a risk ...
Health 11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 0
(HealthDay)—In 2008 to 2010, the prevalence of key health behaviors among U.S. adults varied, with about one in five adults current smokers and 62.1 percent overweight or obese, according to a report presented ...
Health 13 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
(HealthDay)—The overall health of Americans isn't improving much, with about six in 10 people either overweight or obese and large numbers engaging in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, heavy drinking or ...
Health 13 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Is it permissible to harm one to save many? Those who tend to say "yes" when faced with this classic dilemma are likely to be deficient in a specific kind of empathy, according to a report published in the scientific journal ...
33 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Phthalates: Study links chemicals widely found in plastics, processed food to elevated blood pressure in children, teens
Plastic additives known as phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) are odorless, colorless and just about everywhere: They turn up in flooring, plastic cups, beach balls, plastic wrap, intravenous tubing and—according to the ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 1 |
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
18 hours ago | 4.2 / 5 (5) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
16 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (14) | 0 |
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
18 hours ago | 4.6 / 5 (7) | 0 |
Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May ...
12 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 0 |