Multivitamins and dietary supplements have long been considered a great way to ensure that your body gets the nutrients that your normal diet may not be able to provide it. In a world of fast food and microwavable dinners, they seem like the perfect way to fight off scurvy and malnutrition.
Yet a lot of recent research seems to counter the claims that multivitamins are as effective as was once believed. If this research is true, then Americans may be pouring over $20 billion down the drain every year. Yet there may be faults in these studies, as analyzed below.
What the Studies Seem to Indicate
There has been research questioning the efficacy of multivitamins for years, but a recent study actually found that taking them every day may shorten your life. That is a startling conclusion to come to for obvious reasons. It claimed that zinc, magnesium, copper, B6, iron and folic acid supplementation can increase your chances of mortality by approximately three percent (copper supplementation alone seemed to increase mortality rates by up to 20 percent).
While these results seem downright terrifying, there are multiple problems with how the research was performed.
Faults of the Study
The study followed over forty thousand women for two decades. The fact that it only followed women, however, is not considered that big of an issue. Some of these individuals supplemented with specific minerals or vitamins, whilst others took a broad spectrum multivitamin. There was no control group. No group was given a placebo, and the study was merely observational.
The study also primarily followed older women (the average age was above 60). It is well known that iron supplements can cause heart problems in women who have already undergone menopause. Ingesting large amounts of copper can also cause a variety of problems (particularly since copper is found naturally in many foods).
There is also the problem that individuals who take multivitamins may often make poor decisions elsewhere, as they are using the supplementation as justification. Many people justify cheating on their diet because they are taking a capsule every morning, and these indiscretions can add up to cause other health problems in the long run.
Finally, there have been tons of studies that show specific vitamin supplementation to be effective. Vitamin D and Omega-3 supplementation, for example, is supported by scores of research to be an excellent way of getting nutrients that you may not be able to get from your food.
As it turns out, studies such as these are horribly misleading. While the study itself admits its faults and only claims to draw conclusions about elderly women, many individuals (or news outlets) may attempt to skew the information to say “multivitamins can kill you”. In reality, careful multivitamin or dietary supplementation is still a great way to make up for nutritional deficiencies.
Nonetheless, while taking a multivitamin is both safe and healthy, you should always strive to get your nutrients from food itself. Foods have various antioxidants, phytonutrients, and polyphenols that cannot be effectively encapsulated in a multivitamin.