NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Mar 23 - Will taking multivitamins protect you from dying of cancer or cardiovascular disease? The answer is no, a
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Mar 23 - Will taking multivitamins protect you from dying of cancer or cardiovascular disease? The answer is no, according to new research published online February 22 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
In a study of more than 180,000 people, researchers saw the same number of deaths from cancer and heart disease among multivitamin-takers and those who didn't take the supplements.
"People need to understand that just taking these multivitamins is not sufficient to prevent disease," said Dr. Jennifer Hsiang-Ling Lin, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who didn't work on the study.
Multiple past studies have shown no link between multivitamins and reduced risk of cancer or heart disease. Other recent research couldn't prove that multivitamins protect against diabetes, either.
Some small studies in the past have shown that specific vitamins, not multivitamins, may be protective against heart disease or cancer later in life. However these studies looked at undernourished people, not generally healthy adults like the U.S. population, said co-author Dr. Song-Yi Park of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu.
On its web site, the U.S. National Institutes of Health advises that doctors should prescribe multivitamins only "for patients who need extra vitamins, who cannot eat enough food to obtain the required vitamins, or who cannot receive the full benefit of the vitamins contained in the food they eat."
But more than half of U.S. adults choose to take multivitamins, according to Dr. Lin.
Altogether, Dr. Park's team looked at the vitamin-taking habits of more than 82,000 men and nearly 100,000 women, who were an average of 60 years old. Then they analyzed mortality rates, and the causes, over the next 11 years.
Overall, about six in 100 multivitamin users and non-users died from heart disease. Cancer claimed about five in 100 from both groups, and four in 100 died from other causes. In total, almost 29,000 people died in the 11 years of follow-up.
The multivitamins didn't protect users from cancer in general, or from cancers of the lung, colon, rectum, prostate, or breast.
Past studies have mostly involved Caucasians, Dr. Lin said. The current one included large numbers of Latino and Japanese-American people. This shows that the lack of association held up for different racial groups as well, she said.
Am J Epidemiol 2011.