Are Multivitamins Useless? Don’t Be Fooled.


Yesterday, articles in the media reported that multivitamins have been proven useless.  Most of the media reports go on to conclude that supplements as a group are pointless and their continued use by the population is truly perplexing.1

The supported evidence: Multivitamins given to elderly men don’t slow brain aging and multivitamins given to people who have already had heart attacks don’t prevent new heart attacks.

Well, okay.  A few questions:

  • Which multivitamins were used in these studies? Are they any good?
  • Are slowing brain aging and preventing future heart attacks fair and reasonable tests for the effectiveness of multivitamins?
  • Even if we decide that multivitamins are no good, should the media be telling us that supplements as a group are useless?

With these two studies, researchers assigned multivitamins two ridiculous tasks.  Who really thinks that multivitamins can prevent second heart attacks or keep elderly men from progressing to dementia?

As a nutritionist, I would never ask this of a multivitamin. It would be absurd.  I doubt that the researchers running these studies were any more optimistic than I would be. In other words, these studies were planned to fail.

When they failed, the authors wrote media-ready but scientifically bankrupt warnings against all supplements anywhere. Don’t be fooled.

What is the truth about supplements? The truth is ever growing and largely positive. For example:

  • The researchers actually did find that multivitamins, even the grab bag of possibly low quality ones used in these studies, reduced the risk of cancer by 8%.  In my book, that is nothing to sneeze at. Think of how many fewer people would get cancer across the entire country.
  • Consider curcumin supplements that are derived from the turmeric spice.  Supplements offered as much cardiovascular benefit as exercise in a recent study.2
  • A recent study found that low vitamin D levels are a likely cause for obesity.3 What is the most efficient way for most people to raise vitamin D levels? Supplements.

​1. Forbes

2. Nutrition Research 2013.

3. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013.