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Vitamin Pills Do Not Protect Heart or Brain

Two studies show that taking multivitamin pills does not improve memory in older men and does not prevent heart attacks in patients after a recent heart attack (Ann Intern Med, December 16, 2013). The editorial in the same issue of the journal was titled: "Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements." (Ann Intern Med, 2013; 159: 850-851). It stated: "We believe that the case is closed — supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough."

• The first study of 5,947 men over 64 showed no difference in problem solving or memory between those taking multivitamin pills or placebos over 8.5 years.

• The second study was done over five years in 134 centers in the U.S. and Canada. It followed 1,708 patients over age 54 who had a heart attack at least six weeks before they were included in the study. It found no difference between vitamin pills and placebos in time of death, heart attacks, strokes, increased blood flow to the heart, or hospitalization for chest pain. It also found no harm from taking vitamin pills.

The authors noted that vitamin D pills can prevent falls in older people and that folic acid helps to prevent pregnant women from having babies with birth defects of the brain or spine.

The authors write: "For the other vitamins and supplements, the case is closed." Two previous clinical trials have found slightly less cancer in men who take multivitamins, but several studies found that vitamins A and E and beta-carotene pills are associated with increased risk for certain cancers.

Recent recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force stated that the authors could not find evidence to support recommending for or against vitamin and mineral pills to prevent heart attacks or cancers in healthy adults (The Cochrane Collaboration, published online. Nov. 12, 2013).

A Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
More than 53 percent of North Americans take some type of vitamin or mineral supplements, paying more than 30 billion dollars a year.

Checked 10/12/17

December 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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