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Multivitamins as cheap insurance for an inadequate diet

Can a multivitamin protect against disease?

“We know that even people who make a concerted effort to add more nutrient-dense foods to their diets still might not be meeting their nutrient requirements,” says Diane McKay, an assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

In 2000, in a study sponsored by a California supplement company, McKay and her colleagues randomly assigned 80 healthy, well-nourished adults who were living in the Boston area to take either a standard multi or a placebo for two months.

“Even in these healthy people, we found a significant boost in the blood levels of certain nutrients up to levels that are associated with a lower risk of disease,” says McKay.

The percentage of multi takers with suboptimal vitamin D levels, for example, dropped from 7 percent to 0 percent, and the percentage with suboptimal vitamin B-12 fell from 42 percent to 27 percent.

McKay’s bottom line: “Taking a multivitamin formulated at about 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamins and minerals can be a pretty convenient and cost-effective way of filling in the gaps that may exist between what you need and what you’re actually consuming.”

In 2010, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee identified seven “shortfall nutrients of public health concern”: vitamin B-12, vitamin D, folic acid, iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber.

Multivitamins aren’t a good source of fiber, potassium, or calcium, which are too bulky to fit into a multi. But a multivitamin can provide close to—or all of—a day’s worth of the other four.

Source: J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 19: 613, 2000.

Add Your Comments


  1. Paul
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I’m confused. What about the recent study finding (Annals of Internal Medicine) that multivitamins was a waste of money and could even be dangerous? It seems this study’s conclusions are based a much larger group of participants.

  2. Jane
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I wonder why would Nutrition Action quote a 13 year old study of multi-vitimins, sponsored by an un-named California supplement company of only 80 people, suggesting we take a multi-vitamin every day. This might be a good idea, but there is, at present, lots of controversy around this issue and many more recent studies.

  3. Laurie
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I, too, wonder about the validity a 13 year old study, with only 80 people, for only two months of intake. And sponsored by a supplement company? C’mon. I’m disappointed in you, Nutrition Action! Thirteen year old information is old information.

  4. Jeffery
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    The recent study did not check levels of vitamins in the blood. They looked to see if taking a multivitamin aided in reducing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure ect. There are many factors that go into what causes disease. I think the FDA or some drug company may have funded the study. And we all know they want us to use the drugs that have several side effects and they make Billions of dollars selling to the masses. I for one will continue to take vitamins and stay away from Big Pharma and the crap they sell.

  5. D
    Posted December 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The multivitamin studies are likely BS as half of all vitamins are fat soluble and have to be taken with a meal or some vegetable oil to take effect. And vitamins that are chewable or liquid are ingested far more than unchewable tablets.

  6. Daniel
    Posted June 9, 2014 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    The most ridiculous inclusion in multivitamins is Vitamin E. There are an Infinitesimal number of humans that are unable to convert natural edible fats and oils to Vitamin E. The animals used for the recommended daily requirement were rats, who are unable to covert their dietary oils into Vitamin E. Recent studies found the over 300 to 400mg. or more cause increases in mortality from a number of diseases. It seems to me that taking a multivitamin may not only be unnecessary but can be very hamful.
    Also Dr. Oz is not a medical doctor but he is a chiropractor, which bases it causation of disease on misalignment of bones not the lack of vitamins, cancers, heart disease or infectious disease.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Can a multivitamin protect against disease?  See: Multivitamins as cheap insurance for an inadequate diet […]

  2. By Heart and Disease: Multivitamins for Your Heart on November 25, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    […] Will a multivitamin cut your risk of disease? For heart disease and stroke, the answer appears to be no. […]

  3. […] When an Op Ed in The New York Times in June 2013 warned readers, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” it wasn’t referring to multivitamins like Centrum or One A Day. Instead, Philadelphia physician Paul Offit cautioned that high doses of antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene could raise the risk of cancer and heart disease. […]

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