Last week – from May 15 to the 17 – the ‘NIH (National Institutes of Health) State-of-the-Science Conference on Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements and Chronic Disease Prevention’ took place in Bethesda, MD.
The conference focused on vitamin and mineral use and explored a number of questions regarding their usefulness and safety.
The six questions are below, along with their conclusions:
1)What are the current patterns and prevalence of the public’s use of MVM (multivitamin/mineral) supplements?
– Over half of Americans take a MVM because they believe that it will help them feel better and be healthier.
– Sales of supplements to Americans are now at around $23 billion, with MVM being most of these.
– Women, elderly, better educated, wealthier, healthier lifestyle, disease survivors, chronic disease sufferers and lower BMI people tend to take them the most.
– Smokers, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans tend to use them less.
2)What is known about the dietary nutrient intake of MVM user versus nonusers?
– People who take MVM tend to eat healthier diets anyway.
3)What is the efficacy of single vitamin/mineral supplement use in chronic disease prevention?
The findings of the study include:
– Beta-carotene: an increase in lung cancer in smokers has been associated with use
– Vitamin B2 and niacin: decreased risk of nuclear cataracts
– Vitamin B6: no effects on cognitive decline
– Folic acid: effective when used by pregnant women in preventing neural tube defects
– Calcium and Vitamin D: used together these nutrients do help to reduce risks of fractures in postmenopausal women
4)What is the efficacy of MVM in chronic disease prevention in the general population of adults?
– Cancer: incidence of some cancers may be reduced by some vitamins or minerals, but nothing conclusive
– Cardiovascular disease: no benefits or harm were found
– Cataract: Mixed results
– Macular degeneration: one study showed benefit from vitamin C, E, beta-carotene and zinc
5)What is known about the safety of MVM for the generally health population?
Some vitamins or minerals may actually increase risks of some cancers. Consumption above the recommend UL (upper limit) may be harmful.
6)What are the major knowledge gaps and research opportunities regarding MVM use?
The panel recommends more studies to further the understanding of MVM including those related to interactions of MVM with medications and ethnic/age/gender specific studies.
The panel consisted of 13 members with expertise in nutrition, statistics, toxicology, geriatric medicine, pediatrics, cancer prevention, consumer protection and more. The panel was chaired by J. Michael McGinnis.
In their conclusion they stated ‘Finally, the present evidence is insufficient to recommend either for or against the use of MVMs by the American public to prevent chronic disease.’
An interesting interview with Dr. Meir J. Stampfer, Maret Traber, Ph.D. , Dr. Irwin Rosenberg and Dr. Johanna M. Seddon can be found at NPR: Experts Make Their Recommendations on Vitamins.
I like the point made by Dr. Meir J. Stampfer: ‘We can’t lose sight of the idea that just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. Tobacco and asbestos are natural, yet they are not safe.’. That’s a very good point that gets forgotten all too often.
The point seems very clear too that it is best to get your nutrients from the food you eat rather than from supplements. I do the best I can at this, but it is not easy all the time. I wonder how many people think that if they take a vitamin they don’t need to worry about how they eat?
If you like this post please share or vote for it below:
5 Responses to 'Are we taking too many vitamins and minerals?'
Leave a Reply
Comments protected by Lucia's Linky Love.