CRN rebukes another null study on multivitamins and heart health: 'They are not intended to serve as magic bullets'

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / Badmanproduction
iStock / Badmanproduction

Related tags: Multivitamin, Heart health, Cardiovascular disease

Another study published this year posits multivitamin consumption does not improve cardiovascular outcomes. A supplement industry trade group reminds that they weren’t made for that anyway.

Instead, “multivitamins fill nutrient gaps ​[and] are not intended to prevent cardiovascular disease,” ​read a statement issued by the trade group, the Washington DC-based Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), today.

The group was responding to a systematic review and meta-analysis published online​ this morning in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes​, which is affiliated with the American Heart Association, titled “Association of Multivitamin and Mineral Supplementation and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.”

The paper’s authors included researchers from the University of Alabama Birmingham, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, and the University of Miami.

They crunched data from 18 studies, a mix of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies, and found no link between multivitamin and mineral (MVM) supplements on cardiovascular disease prevention in the general population.

“MVM supplements were associated with a slightly lower risk of coronary heart disease incidence in the overall analysis, but no association was found with stroke incidence,”​ they wrote, adding that the inverse relation between MVM use and coronary heart disease was seen only when all studies were considered, but not when subgroup analysis was performed on just the randomized controlled trials.

‘The findings of this new meta-analysis do not discount the multivitamin’s many benefits’

In CRN’s response, the association’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, Duffy MacKay, ND, said that “the findings of this new meta-analysis do not discount the multivitamin’s many benefits.”

“The multivitamin, the most widely-used dietary supplement, has a critical place in promoting and preserving good health…73% of Americans take a multivitamin as part of a healthy lifestyle,” ​he added.

“Government research has repeatedly demonstrated serious nutrient shortfalls among the U.S. population—a majority of Americans fail to achieve recommended levels of essential nutrients through food alone, and this ‘hidden hunger’ is especially prevalent among low-income Americans.”

The trade group advocates increasing accessibility to multivitamins for lower-income households. It lobbied to make multivitamins eligible for purchase using SNAP benefits in the House’s passed Farm Bill​.

Further Reading

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From a list of about a dozen shortfall nutrients, US government health agencies recognize only a handful as a public health concern. Some researchers and trade groups argue that this shouldn’t be the case.

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“CRN stresses that multivitamins fill nutrient gaps in our less-than-perfect diets and support a host of other physiological functions, but they are not intended to serve as magic bullets for the prevention of serious diseases,”​ MacKay added.

Not a new finding

The Circulation ​paper isn’t the first null study to come out this year exploring a link between cardiovascular health and multivitamin use—in May, a report​ published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology ​found slim to no cardiovascular benefit of supplementation with B vitamins, beta carotene, vitamins A, C and D, calcium, folic acid, selenium, and zinc.

Not long after its publication, the paper’s results made national headlines.

The latest study published in Circulation ​is poised to get the same media attention, as media outlets like Newsweek​and The Independent​ have published news stories this morning on the report with headlines emphasizing how multivitamins will not help in the prevention of heart disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, a senior scientist in the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University told us​ when the report in May came out that such headlines make it sound like a new finding, when in fact it adds only incrementally to what has already been written.

According to MacKay, media outlets should provide context about how this recently published meta-analysis "adds to a growing body of evidence on the multivitamin and heart disease specifically, and how it is not relevant to the other benefits of taking a multivitamin."

"A responsible news story would not only emphasize the importance of consuming the recommended amount of essential nutrients daily, and how a daily multivitamin is a prudent way to insure this happens (especially for picky eaters or diet restrictions), but also remind consumers that multivitamins are not intended to prevent or treat heart disease," ​he told us. 

"Unfortunately, many stories do not take this approach.”

Source: Circulation: Cardiovascular and Quality Outcomes
Published online, https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.117.004224
Association of Multivitamin and Mineral Supplementation and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Authors:​ Joonseok Kim, et al

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