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22 December 2020

Multivitamin “benefits” may just be placebo effect

No measurable health benefits from taking multivitamins, study finds.

Multivitamins are big business, with supplement companies earning millions of dollars a year from sales. But good evidence regular multivitamin use has any measurable effect on health is yet to be found.

A new study published in the journal BMJ Open found any benefits of taking multivitamins may be “all in the minds of users”.

The study analysed data on more than 21,000 US adults. Nearly 5000 regularly took supplements while 16,000 didn’t.

Participants were asked to rate their own health. They were also asked about their psychological, physical and functional health outcomes, and history of 10 long-term health problems.

Regular vitamin takers were 30 percent more likely to rate their overall health as “excellent or good”. However, there was no difference between participants in any clinical health outcomes, including high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and arthritis.

The study backs up findings of other research that’s also found no clinical health benefits from vitamin use in the general population.

Regular multivitamin users in the study were significantly older and had higher household incomes. They were also more likely to be women, college graduates, married and have health insurance.

The majority of vitamin supplements “are sold to the so-called ‘worried well’ population who may assign greater weight to the purported health benefits of dietary supplements and alternative therapies,” the study’s authors note.

“It is possible that members of this population are more susceptible to positive expectations and may therefore continue to use [multivitamins] in the absence of clinical benefits.”

Our advice

  • Unless a supplement is recommended by your doctor, you’re better off spending your money on eating a balanced diet.

  • If you’re looking for something to boost your health and reduce your risk of disease, walk past the supplement store – and keep going. Regular physical activity reduces your risk of dying early, no matter the cause.

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