The benefits of a daily multivitamin – from filling nutrient gaps to a potential reduction in cancer risk – have dominated the headlines in recent weeks. In this NutraIngredients-USA special focus, we revisit the studies and the responses to these important developments.
First up, we have the study from JAMA that reported that a daily multivitamin may reduce the risk of cancer by a modest 8% .
Commenting independently on the study, Prof Balz Frei from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University said that an 8% drop in overall cancer rates is not small.
“Given that more than 1.6 million new cancer cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, this translates into about 130,000 cancers prevented every year, and with it all the health care costs and human suffering," he said.
“Of course it’s just a supplement, and it’s not a substitute for a good diet and healthy lifestyle. But this study should finally answer all the doubters out there who still think multivitamin supplements have no value. And it further confirms they are completely safe to take.”
The study used data from the Physicians’ Health Study (PHS) II study of almost 15,000 male physicians followed for over a decade.
Making lemons out of lemonade
Despite the good news this study provided, there were some in the industry that seemed intent on sabotaging the study’s findings.
In response to this, NutraIngredients-USA published a guest editorial from Steve Mister, President & CEO for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), who called on the industry to use the results constructively .
“The study is validation that supplementing one’s diet, even a relatively well-balanced diet, with a multivitamin can improve one’s health,” said Mister.
“What we can do with this new research is use it constructively, but selectively and appropriately, with particular audiences: general practice doctors, nurse practitioners, dietitians and pharmacists – those who regularly counsel consumers about healthy lifestyle practices and can be gatekeepers for our products. We can also use this study to demonstrate the potential health effects of a multivitamin with policy makers,” he added.
Please click here to read Multivitamin Study: Making Lemons Out of Lemonade .
On Monday, JAMA published more results from the PHS II, this time focusing on cardiovascular health outcomes.
In this instance, no apparent reduction in the risk of developing heart disease for a healthy population of men was reported.
The researchers concluded: “These data do not support multivitamin use to prevent CVD, demonstrating the importance of long-term clinical trials of commonly used nutritional supplements.
“Whether to take a daily multivitamin requires consideration of an individual’s nutritional status, because the aim of supplementation is to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency, plus consideration of other potential effects, including a modest reduction in cancer and other important outcomes in PHS II that will be reported separately.”
Please click here to read our article, Multivitamins may not benefit heart disease risk, but 'don't forget the aim and other potential benefits of supplements'
Still #1 in supplement use
The value of a daily multivitamin to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency as part of a healthy lifestyle is clearly understood by consumers. Results of numerous surveys have shown that multivitamins continue to lead the pack.
Recently released data from the 2012 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements revealed that 52% of the adults surveyed reported having used these products in the last twelve months.
Usage in the 35-54 age demographic was especially strong, with 54% reporting usage. That was a significant increase from 2011, when 49% of respondents in that age bracket said they took a multivitamin.
A survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of The Vitamin Shoppe indicated that 72% of respondents report taking a multivitamin supplement on a regular basis.
According to Prof Balz Frei: “Quite simply, at around a penny a day a multivitamin is the cheapest health insurance a person will ever buy.”