Shocking News (to some) from Harvard Medical School
Millions of us face the decision every day: whether to take a multi-vitamin, or not. In fact, millions of Americans do take a daily multivitamin – hoping it will help keep them healthy!
Now, a new study of almost 15,000 men over 50 showed a significant decrease in cancer! The study is good news for many who spend money on a daily multi-vitamin trusting it will help prevent disease.
In one of the largest and longest placebo-controlled clinical trials ever done on a multi-vitamin, it showed a remarkable 8% drop in all cancers across the board. Sure, the multi’s were given to men but it only makes sense that 13 years of giving your body more of the nutrients it needs would help everyone.
Placebos and Physicians
Previous multivitamin studies, attacking the value of vitamins, were observational (meaning the participants were not compared with someone taking a placebo). This was a large-scale, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial.
In addition, these were not people from jungles. These were 14 641 US physicians who are well educated, able to buy food, people – including 1,312 men with a history of cancer at randomization. They followed them over 11 years, which is a longer follow-up than previous studies – and sufficient time for cancer to develop.
Multi vs Single Vitamin
The trial also used a multivitamin, which is designed to fill nutritional gaps in a person’s diet. Other trials have tested a single vitamin such as calcium or vitamin A, E or D in large doses. That is very different from how people normally get the vitamins and minerals they need from food.
The reduction in total cancer risk argues that the broader combination of low-dose vitamins and minerals, rather than previously tested high-dose vitamins and mineral trials, may be most important for cancer prevention.
So, if a multivitamin prevents cancer because it provides a mix of nutrients similar to food, why not just eat more fruits and vegetables? True, but only in theory because only 1.5 percent of people get the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. Even then, much of it has less nutrients than they should because of modern farming techniques.
Ok, so it was only cancer and only an 8% drop. Some wrinkle their nose at this. However, they only used a lower range multi-vitamin in the study – not a 60+ multi-nutrient in significant amounts! What % would they get with a multi-nutrients like that?
Also, they only tested for cancer. The reasonable suggestion is that a better supply of the nutrients the body needs helps the body function better in all areas! What the AICR (and ourselves) cautions against is relying on supplements to provide cancer protection. This study shows that a supplement is just that – a supplement. It is not substitute for eating and exercising reasonably.
However, a Good Multivitamin Certainly Helps!
From these results, we already know that we could prevent 8%, or more, of cancers. Other diseases and illnesses perhaps even more! We continue to look for healthy foods and supplements to lower your illness risk and increase your quality of life.
Best to all.
Multivitamins in the prevention of cancer in men: the Physicians’ Health Study II randomized controlled trial. Gaziano JM, Sesso HD, Christen WG, Bubes V, Smith JP, MacFadyen J, Schvartz M, Manson JE, Glynn RJ, Buring JE. Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02120, USA. JAMA. 2012 Nov 14;308(18):1871-80.