Wednesday Bubble: Vitameatavegamin

Posted by on Feb 10, 2009 in Uncategorized | 6 comments


I Love Lucy. But, today’s bubble is  no laughing matter.

New evidence suggests that multivitamins do not offer protection against common cancers (i.e. breast, colon/rectum, endometrial, kidney, bladder, stomach, ovary and lung), heart disease and overall mortality in postmenopausal women.

These findings, which were published this past Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, offer combined evidence from three overlapping trials in the Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trial and Observational Study which included women assigned hormone therapy, dietary modification or calcium and vitamin D.

Over a time period of roughly 8 years, researchers collected and evaluated data on the use of multivitamins, multivitamins with minerals and stress supplements in 161,808 women, including  number of pills weekly and length of use for each supplement.

Supplements were also grouped according to ingredients: 1) multivitamins alone = 10 or more vitamins with no added mineral meeting 100% of RDA; 2) multivitamins with minerals = 20 to 30 vitamins and minerals and nutrients less than or equal to 100% of RDA, and  3) supplements containing more than 200% of the RDA of B-vitamins and high doses of vitamin C or selected minerals).

Overall, 41.5% of study participants used multivitamins (most commonly, multivitamins with minerals). Analysis showed no association between multivitamin use and cancer, heart disease, or overall mortality risk, although a possible association between stress-type supplements and a slightly lowered risk of heart attack was seen.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that “multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, heart disease or total mortality in postmenopausal women.”

In the study’s discussion, the researchers questioned the value of using multivitamins for chronic disease prevention, and while they acknowledged the importance of nutrition for preventing chronic illnesses, they suggest that supplements are not likely to play a major role in these efforts.

What do you think? (BTW, Dr. Hubbard from My Family Doctor Mag has a great post on this issue.)


  1. 2-11-2009

    Those vitamin people have some splainin to do!

  2. 2-11-2009

    Thanks for the info. Personally I love all of this objective stuff they are still gleaning out of the WHI study. It is, however, an observational study which points to evidence which usually needs further study to confirm. So where do we go from here on multivitams?

    Mainstream medicine was late to the party of taking herbs and supplements seriously so good biostatistical studies are sparce. Last year, however, studies showed most of us don’t get enough vitamin D from the diet and sun and found all sorts of reasons we need vitamin D supplementation. Studies on other vitamins will follow, like the ones showing C and E don’t help the heart. Some studies may evern show harm like too much vitamin A supplentation in smokers.

    A recent study concluded to not recommend multivitamins to all children but also concluded kids who are probably vitamin deficient are the ones not taking multivitamins. Confusing to say the least.

    I am convinced that supplements do not take the place of eating a daily variety of fruits and vegetables where all the vitamins and nutrients are absorbed and used in ideal combinations.

    Likely we will be hearing of more specific studies regarding other specific vitamins. Since I don’t know which will prove benefit, I’m not stopping my multivitamin unless there is proof of harm.

  3. 2-11-2009

    Dr. Hubbard – great comment, thanks! “Since I don’t know which will prove benefit, I’m not stopping my multivitamin unless there is proof of harm.” Wonderful advice folks!

  4. 2-11-2009

    what a relief, vitamins give me indigestion.

    and that is one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes, although the candy factory holds a close second.

    love Rachel’s Rickiesque comment!

  5. 2-12-2009

    I also loved Rachel’s Ricky comment! And I agree with amyz5 – this is the best episode, with the candy factory episdoe a very close second. Thanks for the I Love Lucy memory Liz!
    But, as for the topic at hand, the study’s conclusion was that, although supplements do not appear to provide a benefit, they also don’t appear to cause any harm. So, no need to throw out the One-A-Day just yet! However, forgot about megadoses of individual vitamins or supplements (unless you’ve been subscribed something for a deficiency, that is)! I view multi-vitamins the way I view insurance – you probably don’t need it, but you get it, just in case!

  6. 12-5-2009

    @LL!S0^ !^ VV0^D#R L@^D-I LOVE LUCY

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