are multivitamins a waste of money

are multivitamins a waste of money

When it comes to supplements, I often recommended people to take multivitamins. After all, presumably only good things can come from covering all of your bases with one simple pill. At the very least, it will give you some supposed peace of mind.
But after diving into the research, my opinion has changed drastically about multivitamins. What I found is that, although multivitamin supplements technically have many micronutrients you need combined into one pill, it’s not as beneficial as you may think. As it stands now, in the U.S., 1 out of 3 adults take a multivitamin supplement, propelling supplements into a $30 billion, with a Billion, dollar industry. And even with such wide use, we don’t truly understand the actual benefits of a multivitamin.

People vaguely just believe that taking multivitamins will improve your health, however it may be. But when it comes evidence of it actually doing so, it really doesn’t do much at all. One of the best indicators of health is mortality, or ability to live longer.
A 2012 meta-analysis looked at 21 articles pooling together 91,074 people. What they found was that, across all 21 studies, taking multivitamins had zero impact, ZERO, neither good nor bad, on mortality risk. In some studies, it was even found that specific supplementation of vitamin E and beta-carotene may be associated with an increase of all-cause mortality. But health is not just about living longer, it’s also about other things like being disease or cancer free or free of heart problems. And once again, multivitamins draw a blank in these cases.

A 2006 systematic review of 20 articles from the Annals of Internal Medicine came to the conclusion that there simply isn’t enough proof that multivitamins is beneficial to preventing cancer or chronic diseases outside of populations that are dealing with malnourishments. Another systematic review in 2013 came to a similar conclusion, finding that vitamin and mineral supplements had limited evidence in preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases in healthy individuals.
A study in the same year also concluded that oral multivitamins did not statistically significantly reduce the events of heart problems in people that previously experience myocardial infarctions. In short, as far as improving your health, multivitamins don’t really do much for you. Research also suggest it doesn’t improve cognitive function, prevent respiratory tract infections, or prevent any infections for that matter.

Now let me clarify, micronutrients most definitely are important to have no matter what. Our body needs them to function. But the only time supplementation becomes effective is when faced with deficiencies. A lot of times people think they have deficiencies that they don’t. You might have heard people say they need more B12, but in fact only 3% of US and UK adults actually suffer from B12 deficiency. On top of that, it’s fairly simple to get B12 from eating meats or fortified grains.
Granted, there are more common deficiencies, such as deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin K, Iron, Zinc, and Magnesium. Problem is, most multivitamins wouldn’t give you enough of these anyway.
Take Vitamin D, for example, where the optimal amount is roughly 1 to 2 thousand international units, but most multivitamins have only about 400. And some just have poor versions of these nutrients, such as magnesium oxide, which is the cheapest version of magnesium and is poorly absorbed by the body. And sometimes, they don’t even have these nutrients entirely.

When dealing with these deficiencies, you’re much better off supplement specifically for them. If you lack Zinc and Magnesium, ZMA supplements are the way to go. Women who lack folic acid during pregnancy should supplement it directly. As you age, then multivitamins can be beneficial, since deficiencies are greater the older you get. Also, strangely enough, multivitamins most likely benefit those with lower incomes that cannot afford a diverse amount of food.
Yet, they are the ones that are least likely to buy them, and the people that are falls into the group that don’t need them. So, with all of this evidence surrounding the lack of multivitamin benefits, why is it still so commonly used?

Simple: It starts with the letter M and ends with an empty wallet.
Again, the supplement industry is big and much of its success comes from sales of multivitamins. And, it’s so simple to market:

All they have to say is “Take this pill and it will fix all of your problems.” And, the thing is, it’s hard to believe that it won’t because it does in fact contain the nutrients that we technically need. But as we see it now, it has very little use in pill form. We get more than enough nutrients from a balanced diet containing fruits and veggies.

Frankly, the idea of multivitamins can actually create another problem when people start thinking that it’s okay to have a poor diet because, no worries, you have “peace of mind” when taking a multivitamin. But, that’s like filling up your car’s gas tank with chocolate milk and then thinking that adding one drop of gasoline will help your car run just fine. Truth is, it doesn’t.

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