Vitamins Useless or Even Harmful? Not So Fast
Recently, some large studies have received attention after widely circulated media reports claimed their conclusions questioned the usefulness, and even safety, of multivitamins. Essentially, the media reported, vitamins are largely a waste of money, and they may even be associated with harmful outcomes in some cases. But experts at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University say these reports are misleading, because scientists have been using flawed methodology.
I’ve always said that it’s best to get the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs from whole, organic foods. But in some instances, such as specific nutritional deficiencies, supplemental nutrients can be not only justified, but helpful. When the media make sensational claims such as “multivitamins are a waste of money, or they’re even harmful” it only adds to the public’s confusion and distrust.
While it’s true that people who eat a good diet consisting of whole foods probably get all the essential nutrients they need from the diet, it’s also possible that certain nutrients may be lacking in certain people, for a variety of reasons. These people can benefit from specific supplements.
For example, pregnant women are often encouraged to take supplemental iron to boost blood production, and folate to help prevent birth defects. Elderly people, vegetarians, and people who take proton pump inhibitor drugs (such as Prevacid®, Prilosec®, Nexium®, etc.) may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, and can benefit from supplemental B vitamins. And most Americans have been shown to have low or inadequate levels of vitamin D. Most of us, therefore, can benefit from some additional vitamin D3, which is available as a supplement, or—you guessed it—as part of a multivitamin formula.
Michels AJ, Frei B. Myths, Artifacts, and Fatal Flaws: Identifying Limitations and Opportunities in Vitamin C Research. Nutrients. 2013; 5(12):5161-5192.