Do Multivitamins Improve Health?
By Paul Rothbart
The daily multivitamin is a very common supplement. In fact, half of all Americans take a vitamin supplement on a regular basis. For people 65 and older, that figure swells to 70 percent. The total amount spent on vitamins annually is $12 billion. That is quite a sum. But is it money well spent? Do multivitamins significantly improve health? According to a journal published by nutrition researchers at Johns Hopkins, the answer is no.
Multivitamins Do Not Prevent Disease
Good nutrition is a key to good health and avoiding any type of disease. Research has shown that multivitamins don't perform this function in any significant way. An analysis of studies involving 450,000 subjects that multivitamins did not reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer. Another study tracked nearly 6,000 men for a period of 12 years, monitoring their mental function and multivitamin usage. The conclusion was that multivitamins did not reduce the risk of memory loss or slowing of brain function. Yet another study of 1,700 heart attack survivors lasted 55 months. One group consumed multivitamins daily while the other was on a placebo. The rates of heart attacks and heart surgery were similar between the two groups.
Spend That Money On Healthy Foods
Healthy foods tend to be more expensive than processed, easy-to-cook products. Experts recommend that you stop using multivitamins and put that money toward food for healthier meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain most of the nutrition found in a multivitamin and also contain fiber, antioxidants, and other compounds that do prevent disease. Healthy proteins such as fish and poultry contain omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats. These substances improve brain function, lower cholesterol, and lessen the risk of heart disease.
Supplements That Are Helpful
There are exceptions. Some supplements are helpful in certain situations. For example, most doctors will recommend that patients with osteoporosis and other bone diseases take Vitamin D pills. This nutrient can be difficult to get in one's diet. For women in their child-bearing years, folic acid is a helpful supplement. It prevents neural tube defects in babies. The CDC recommends that women of reproductive age get 400 milligrams of folic acid each day.
Vitamins are a multi-billion dollar industry. Marketing and advertising make many claims about how these products contribute to health and prevent disease. Science says otherwise. Good health doesn't come in a pill. Rather than pop a vitamin every morning, take the time to buy and prepare healthy foods. A good diet will improve health and prevent disease. Not to mention, eating a nice meal is a much more satisfying experience than swallowing a pill.
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