No evidence for multivitamin's disease benefit: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Epidemiology Cancer

There is no evidence to indicate that multivitamin use is associated with risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and overall risk of death, according to new research.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology,​ reported “no clear decrease or increase”​ in mortality from all causes in multivitamin supplement users compared to those who do not take multivitamins.

“In this large multiethnic cohort, we found no associations between multivitamin use and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular diseases, or cancer,”​ reported the researchers, led by Song-Yi Park, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

“Moreover, the risk of morbidity from overall or major cancers did not differ between multivitamin users and nonusers,”​ they added.

Commenting on the study, Duffy MacKay, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) told NutraIngredients that it is unlikely that a multivitamin alone would prevent or treat cardiovascular disease or cancer, but highlighted that multivitamins “are an important part of a healthy lifestyle.”

“It is fair to say that a multivitamin is not the magic cure-all for all causes of premature death (no, a multivitamin will not save you in a car accident) … We really did not need this study to verify this,”​ said MacKay.

“What we’re seeing with this study is that people who take a multivitamin are more likely to also be engaged in other healthy habits, and that would seem to be an important pattern of behavior that should be encouraged,”​ he added.

Vitamins for vigor?

Park and colleagues explained that multivitamin and mineral supplements are commonly used because people expect this type of supplement to improve their health. However, they noted that the efficacy of supplements to prevent chronic disease or premature death “is not proven, and the National Institutes of Health do not recommend multivitamin/mineral supplements for this purpose.”

“A small number of clinical trials to date have shown that multivitamin use was effective in reducing the risk of some chronic disease including cancer and cardiovascular diseases … However, these trials tested specific combinations of vitamins with or without minerals rather than commonly used multivitamin products,”​ explained the authors.

The new study assessed the relationship between multivitamin to mortality and cancer, among 182,099 participants enrolled in the Multiethnic Cohort Study between 1993 and 1996 in Hawaii and California.

Study details

Park and co-workers reported no significant associations were observed between multivitamin use and overall mortality rates, adding that the frequency and duration of supplement use made little difference statistically.

“Mortality from cardiovascular diseases or cancer also was not associated with multivitamin use,”​ added the researchers.

The research team also found no association between multivitamin use and mortality when subgroups of the cohort participants were examined.

“There were no differences by age group, body mass index group, pre-existing illness, single supplement use, hormone replacement therapy use (among postmenopausal women), and smoking status,”​ said the authors.

“In addition, there was no evidence indicating that multivitamin use increased or decreased risk for cancer, overall or at major sites, such as lung, colorectum, prostate, and breast,”​ they added.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1093/aje/kwq447
“Multivitamin Use and the Risk of Mortality and Cancer Incidence: The Multiethnic Cohort Study”
Authors: S.Y. Park, S.P. Murphy, L.R. Wilkens, B.E. Henderson, L.N. Kolonel

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