Should everyone take a daily multivitamin? A Harvard medical editor says yes.

By Claudia Adrien

- Last updated on GMT

Multivitamins are the most used supplement in the United States. @ Eoneren/ Getty Images
Multivitamins are the most used supplement in the United States. @ Eoneren/ Getty Images

Related tags Multivitamin micronutrient

In response to convincing evidence published earlier this year, the chief medical editor at Harvard Health Publishing says he now recommends daily multivitamin mineral (MVM) supplementation for the population at-large.

Dr. Howard LeWine, who is also a practicing internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, wrote in a blog post​ that results from the recently published COSMOS Trial supporting cognitive benefits of MVM changed his viewpoint.

“Before this study, I supported anyone who wanted to take a standard daily MVM, although I did not promote its use for all my patients,” he wrote. “However, this new evidence has tilted my opinion in favor of a daily MVM for everyone. It’s relatively inexpensive and quite safe.”

He added that men should look for a MVM that does not contain iron unless it’s recommended by their doctor.

LeWine was asked by a reader in his late 60s who said he eats a well-balanced diet whether taking a multivitamin was necessary. LeWine responded that most people with enough calorie and protein intake get a sufficient level of micronutrients but that a daily MVM “provides some dietary insurance.” The new research suggests multivitamins may delay cognitive decline in older adults.

Dr. Andrea Wong, PhD, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said the organization is encouraged by this shift in perspective.

“[We] hope that more healthcare institutions and providers will recognize the solid body of evidence supporting the health benefits of multivitamins and other supplements,” she told NutraIngredients-USA.

Multivitamins are the most used supplement in the United States, according to a CRN consumer survey​.

The COSMOS Trial

The COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), a large-scale, nationwide, randomized trial that analyzed data from 5,000 people, sought to determine the health benefits of cocoa extract and multivitamin supplements. The meta-analysis showed strong evidence of benefits for both global cognition and episodic memory, as NutraIngredients-USA​ reported in January.

The trial also examined 573 participants, and researchers observed a modest benefit for the multivitamin, compared to the placebo, regarding global cognition over two years.

“The meta-analysis of three separate cognition studies provides strong and consistent evidence that taking a daily multivitamin, containing more than 20 essential micronutrients, helps prevent memory loss and slow down cognitive aging,” said Chirag Vyas, MBBS, MPH, from Massachusetts General Hospital and lead researcher on the study. “Our findings warrant consideration by clinical guidelines committees for the role of daily MVM use in preventing cognitive decline in older adults.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Alzheimer's Association, nearly one in four Americans will be over the age of 65  by 2060, putting them at heightened risk of cognitive decline and dementias. However, a broadly applicable intervention, such as a MVM supplementation, may delay early signs of cognitive decline, the researchers wrote.

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