Should you stop taking multivitamin supplements as they have no apparent health benefit and may potentially be harmful?

The Linus Pauling Institutes that reading headlines may bring you to the wrong conclusions as they ignore the totality of the evidence from decades of nutrition research.

Vitamins and minerals are needed by the body to maintain normal cell function, metabolism, and growth. If we don’t get enough of these essential nutrients, normal functioning of the body is impaired and health declines. Current evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows that the large majority of the US population falls short of getting the recommended levels of many vitamins and minerals from their diet. For example, more than 90% of US adults do not meet the recommendations for vitamins D and E; 50-60% do not meet the recommendations for vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium; and more than 40% do not consume enough vitamin C.

To be clear, these recommended levels of vitamins and minerals are the minimum amounts that nutrition research has found necessary to maintain good health. But there is some good news: there is  support that people consuming a daily multivitamin containing the recommended amounts of most vitamins and minerals can fill these nutritional gaps safely, conveniently and at very low cost – less than a nickel a day.

Heart illlustration filled with vegetabls, logo of DOH Conference.

In addition to supporting normal body function, vitamins and minerals also may play a role in chronic disease prevention. For example, the largest and longest clinical trial of multivitamins conducted to date, the Physicians’ Health Study II (PHS II), found a significant reduction in total cancer incidence in male physicians 50 years and older, excluding prostate cancer. Although the declines were not large, if every adult in the US took an multivitamin it could possibly prevent up to 130,000 cases of cancer each year.

The PHS II also found a significant reduction in the incidence of cataracts. These findings of PHS II are consistent with those of several other clinical trials and are even more impressive given the fact that conventional clinical trial designs are biased against showing health benefits of essential nutrients.

Therefore, taking a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement will not only help fill the known nutritional gaps in the average American diet, thereby assuring normal biological function and metabolism and supporting  good health, but may also have the added benefit of reducing cancer and cataract risk (a bonus!) – which no existing pharmaceutical drug can do!  To say the ‘case is closed’ and label multivitamin supplements as useless, harmful, or wasteful is non-scientific and does not serve public health.

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13 thoughts on “Multivitamins are not miracles… but they are important.

  1. Yet, multivitamin mfgs say not to take additional vitamine A while taking one-a-day vitamins. But everyone is putting vitamin A and D in everything, milk, bread, too many other foods. It is becomming an overkill.

      • My suggestion for a good source of information is the real vitamin and mineral book by Pauling. I eat fruit for my A vitamins and meat my iron as these two can be overdone if the wrong ( inorganic iron) kind is taken. I work in and desert an B-complex with PABA gives sun protection . Normally this vitamin is made in the gut by the breakdown of folic acid by gut bacteria. You need good gut bacteria to make PABA for sun protection.

        I am a scientist who has kept up with. vitamin literature for 45 years after graution from Oregon State in 1963. I am 75 years old and can pass for 50 years old ad my last physical was very good. My multi-vitamin suggestions are as follows:

        1) Green/black tea…4 cups a day. Anti-aging. Great for skin and lungs.

        2) B-complex with PABA (Trader Joe’s is a good source) 50 mg

        3) Fish oil (Trader Joe’s is a good source) 3,000 mg

        4) Vitamin C (TJ’s with time release) 3,000 mg

        5) Vitamin E (Costco Stores) Take up to 1, 2000
        Vitamin E seems to help cause less grey hair.

        6) Good Bacteria (Costco Stores/ TJ’s) ry Greek yougart with frozen berries from 

        7) CA and Magnesium 1000mg Ca & 400 mg mg ( magnesium important for heart and immune systems…need for asthma)
           Mega Minerals by Nature’s Life is a good source for you of minerals. Buy the capsules. I recommend this for weight and alcohol problems. You body is searching for minerals and vitamins and is fooled by junk foods and alcohol as these food do not supply what you need. Instead try the vita-nutrients to lower your cravings for the bad stuff including junk foods, alcohol, and drugs. Your bad ravings are due to a bad diet and lack of vita-nutrients. Give these suggestions a try and your will find the effects remarkable for feeling better and better health..

        8) Vitamin D3…  Take 6-8 thousand units daily.

        9)CoQ10 100-300 mg (ubiquinol type)(Costco Stores)…for older people’s heart and energy. now I buy the  

        10) Garlic Rich Garlic Concentrate by Natural Factors from some vitamin stores/ internet. Helps lower bad cholesterol and HBP naturally.

        11) Bone and cartilage problems: It’s good to drink 1% milk unless you have allergy problems problems. It’s best to take some healers before problems develop. Move Free, Bi-Flex,  Glucosamine with MSM. 
        Joint Vibrance by  Vibrant Health is the best that I’ve found with many ingredients  for bone health. Buy capsules. Buy from internet and vitamin stores. Take before your bones and cartilage go bad.
        12) Turmeric acid tablets ( from Costco Stores) (Helps prevent dementia)

        13) Aspirin 325mg (enteritis form)  from Costco Stores. 

        14) Deep Thought for mental clarity by KAL contains 27 ingredients for mental available from internet and vitamin stores.

        15) Fresh  fruit when in season like blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates, grapes, apple (yes, food that is white inside is good too) All fruit provide vitamins A and C and anti-aging colors. 

        16) All nuts contain oils almost as health as salmon oil.

        17) Coconuts and coconut oil, chocolate, garlic, curry, turmeric acid, chili, chili pepper and other spices have great health benefits. 

        18) Exercise every second day by going to shopping places like Costco Stores and push the shopping carts around. Try for 4 hours of walking every second day

        19) If you suffer from metal problems, weight problems. alcohol and drug problems and fear of death your best chance is these for a long and happy life. Of coarse eliminate alcohol, junk foods, excessive sugar and white flour.

        20) Eat high fiber foods like whole grains and whole fruits. Try some fiber pills if you wish. Fiber and good bacteria prevents mosts diseases like cancer of the digestive tract. 

        21) Get flu shots more often if immune problems, so I get at different places every 6   months. Older people need to ask for stronger doses. People are not dying from flu shots, while millions suffer and die worldwide from the lack of vaccinations.

        22) Be sure to keep your teeth and gums by brushing and flossing. Vitamin C, Mega Minerals, and CoQ10 will help keep your gums healthy. Buy a package of Orbit Chewing gum fro Costco Stores. Set asides a wad in a plastic container to chew before retiring to remove food side from your teeth. Fruits and vegetables and cocoanuts can help clean your teeth. Cocoanuts ingredients can kill bad tooth bacteria too. Gargling with vodka can kill bad tooth bacteria too for adults  

        23) Milk thistle from Trader Joe’s will clean up your liver. Organ meat in your diet helps feed your organs for better liver health.

        24) Buy these two books:
         a) Buy this book on the internet: The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book by Pauling.****. This book contains the latest scientific information on the benefits of larger doses of vita-nutrients.
         b )Buy this book to find the benefits: Healing Spices by Aggarwal/ Yost **** This book explains the benefits of spices.

         25) Positive thoughts and god Karma and enjoying every hour helps too. Cognitive psychology say by reprograming your brain (a biological computer) you can have much better results. Forget the past except the lessons and wisdom, and good times and the future. Live in the Now and enjoy every hour and make you better and better by studying this essay, history, music, art, literature, great novels, and great movies. Make you better and better. Live and let live.
        I suggest the above regimen for auto-immune diseases, including asthma and lupus, for anti-aging, skin problems and prevention of colds and flu. Remember vitamins work together in combinations.
        . Best, Chris Allen Johansen

        • Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, we cannot recommend many of the supplements you mention in this post – not because of the lack of effect, but the lack of evidence surrounding those effects. If the evidence in the literature is strong, the Institute can support it. If not, we typically refrain from comment.

          • I recommend the book Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone by Hoffer, MD for scientific studies on vitamins and mineral and The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book by Pauling for further studies.
            Many scientific studies with vitamins not showing effects use MDR and not larger doses, or do not take into account vitamins work in combination. Short time studies are not so accurate because vitamin effects need long time studies and there are many variables.
            Millions of people have been taking high doses of vitamins for many years as show with the vitamins sales across the world. Larger doses of some types of A and iron are to be avoided, but many animals and humans take large doses of fish oil and vitamin C in their diet without ill effect. Of course some minerals like selenium and in-organic iron can’t be taken in too large a dose.
            I see a problem with too much caution by some scientist and people being held back with some disease when they could be helped without harm from vitamins and mineral and considering the amount of diseases caused by he lack of vitamins world-wide.
            I believe vitamins can help with some mental diseases, alcoholism, over-weight, addictions and auto-immune diseases, although the scientific evidence may have not been done or been done right. Many alcoholics on the streets diet is beer and wine and vitamin and mineral lacking. People dieting due to being over-weight should take vitamins. Maybe they are eating too much of the wrong kinds of food and too many calories as their body seeks vitamins that their diet dos not provide. I do recommend prescription drugs do be taken if needed, but the taking vitamins as preventive measures before disease occur and taking when you have a problem can be helpful as vitamins are safe and costs are low.
            Often people do not take vitamins as preventive measures because of poor scientific studies that are not done correctly like too low US-DMR, or not done in combination with other vitamins.
            D3 is now recommended to prevent breast cancer. I can imagine the millions of deaths ad misery caused by not taking D3. Some TV Doctor wrote a book about not taking vitamins good diets were enough, but he has been proved wrong. Unfortunately, doctors and nurses studies in
            medical school is not so good.
            I have worked as forensic scientist studying evidence for for 28 years and taken vitamins for 50 years and been retired 17 years. My health exams have been good. I’ve studied vitamin research papers for 50 years. Many studies on vitamins are good ad may are not good studies for one reason, or another. I’m 75 years old. Of coarse you do need a good diet and exercise along with good bacteria supplements, vitamins and minerals in adequate amounts to improve you odds for good health.

  2. Amigos,
    The problems with these studies is the minimum daily vitamins amounts used in these studies is too low to have an effect for chronic diseases.
    I recommend the following books: Real Vitamin and Mineral Book by Pauling, Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone by Hoffer ad Saul and Healing Spices by Aggarwal. These books will present the scientific reasons for much larger doses of vitamin and vita-nutrients than the MDR. If you wish to improve your chances to live to 100 years take the advice from these books.
    I personally take 3,000mg of C, 3,000 mg of salmon oil, 1,200 mg of E,
    6,000 units of D3, 400 mg of Magnesium, 50MG each of the B complex vitamins with PABA and 1,000 MG of Calcium, 325 mg of aspirin, 100-300 mg of CoQ10 along with garlic and turmeric acid pills. I take Mega Minerals capsules by Nature Life for the above minerals that includes needed trace minerals. I take Deep Thought by KAL and the spice turmeric acid for my brain.
    My multi-vitamins were not supplying enough vitamins , so I now buy individual vitamins. I take some bone and cartilage healers to prevent and fix those kinds of problems.
    I love eating all kinds of fruit, including those white inside like apples. The anti-oxidants in whole fruits, veggies, some chocoalate and 4 daily cups of green tea help keep you looking young. I’m 74, but pass for 49 years.
    I cook with olive oil and use canola oil products.
    Avoid the junk foods like the salty snacks and white sugar and white flour.
    In addition to vitamins you need to eat healthy foods like salmon, sardines, nuts, fruits, yogurts, spices like turmeric acid, and garlic. and drink lots of green tea. You must take the good bacteria pills now sold.
    You must not smoke tobacco, drink alcohol moderately, and exercise.
    I buy at vitamin stores, Costco Stores and Trader Joe’s. I exercise by pushing a shopping cart around stores.
    My young girlfriend in Peru had asthma bad and systematic lupus. I have been following the above treating her. She has gone from bad to not having to go to the hospital for 3 years.
    I do get all my vaccinations.
    I am a scientist who has studied vita-nutrients literature for 60 years. Love and good karma and good health to you all. CJ

  3. I just recently got the latest copy of the “Real Vitamin and Mineral” book by Shari Lieberman. This book has been updated with the latest scientific studies. The author was Ms. Pauling and changed name after marriage. This book is worth the price for the latest vitamin information.
    I generally use multivitamins only when traveling, but at home, I follow the guidelines in this book. The book considers %DV / RDA/RDI’s too low.
    The book guides you to your Optimum Daily Allowance (ODA) that will help you prevent diseases

    • The latest version of this book that I could find is the 4th edition, from 2007. Is there a more recent edition?

      The author, Nancy Pauling Bruning, is of no relation to Linus Pauling. As such, I cannot comment on her recommendations, but acknowledge that there is some opinions that the RDA/DV for some vitamins and minerals are too low – but that is certainly not the case with every vitamin and mineral. You still need to make informed decisions rather than make general rules.

      • Dr. Michel,
        I recently got 4 new copies of “The Real Vitamin And Mineral book by Shari Liberman (fomerly MS. Pauling) from Barnes and Noble. This book explains the benefits of Optimum Daily Requirements (ODR). I gave copies to my loved ones. It still is the fourth edition, cover says it is completely revised and updated, but maybe not. Still has a copyright of 2007. I say buy it new and when it is undated in the future too. The 2 writers would be a good addition to your staff, or good for a seminar. This book is still well worth the price.
        You can Google some of the more recent research like on cocoanut oil, chocolate, turmeric acid, and ibuprofen. On the internet you do see a lot of information that is not truthful, or not filtered by scientists and written by misinformed people.
        For convenience when traveling I carry multi-vitamins as it’s too much to carry a lot of vitamin bottles, but for regular use at home I prefer by own selection (ODR) as the higher doses are preferable for me. I believe the % Daily Values as listed on single bottle multivitamins is too low for prevention of chronic illnesses.
        My Mom recently died at 97 years old. Her mind seemed to get much better after she started taking ODA’s of vitamin and fish supplements. Her mind was good until death while her sister’s minds got not so good near her age. My own mental health is much improved (toward being more positive and optimistic), I’d say after taking ODA too. So ODA are worth a try if you care to. Million of people are trying as evidenced from stores selling vita-nutr
        ients without adverse effects, but the above book information would provide much wisdom on what is helpful.
        If you like to camp-out take along one of those plastic sheet like the that are blue and silver on the underside. Mosquitoes do not fly under, even though hundreds are buzzing above. This method could prevent hundred of mosquito bone diseases.
        Try B-complex with PABA (50MG) from Trader Joe’s Stores) to help prevent sunburn and promote tanning. Do get out of the sunshine, or cover up/ under shade during the high UV hours. Drink milk to reconstitute you salts, or take Mega-mineral type supplements in hot weather.
        Need to purify water while camping. Leave water in a clear plastic bottle in the sunshine for a day. Anyway, the above seems to work for me in the Amazon and Western deserts.

  4. A large proportion of the population could be helped by taking preventive measure like taking multi-vitamin and multi-nutrients, including spices that are not taking advantages of these ways.
    The Optimum Daily Allowance (ODA) for vitamins is worthwhile considering for the prevention the treatment and preventing illnesses in your future. I have not found people to be harmed by the wise use of vitamin, spices, and vita-nutrients in the recommended doses in the recommended amounts in the above books. The costs are low compared to illnesses and the benefits worthwhile.
    I recommend you consider studying the literature, instead of not taking vitamin and vita-nutrients that could help you have a better life and better health in the future.
    If you wait around for the scientific proofs you’ll be waiting around forever while you are aging and not getting the benefits of vitamins like D3 and turmeric acid, and anti-aging antioxidants that in recommended doses (ODA) causes no harm and could be helping your have a healthy future.
    Do become informed and make your own decisions. Of coarse an institution can’t get on the cutting edge of science because of liability issues. Do follow your advisors like your doctors and Linus Pauling Institute advice too.

  5. I do agree vitamins are not the cure for all as most people expect. Dietary supplements are just as effective with the right lifestyle. If you inject into your body toxic products like alcohol and bad food, no amount of multivitamins can help you. The supplements will enhance the good parts of your behavior.

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