AirTalk for December 17, 2013

Doctors say stop wasting money on multivitamins

Vitamin Sales Go Up As Consumers Struggle With Cost Of Health Care

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Don Olufs checks inventory of vitamins and diet supplements at Vibrant Health April 6, 2009 in San Francisco, California.

Is your daily multivitamin just a waste of money? That's the message from a new editorial published in the influential medical journal, the Annals of Internal Medicine. The authors looked at the results of three studies into the efficacy of vitamin and mineral supplements and concluded that they're not beneficial and a waste of money. That's probably news to the 53 percent of Americans who have spent some $28 billion a year on supplements and vitamins.

Many Americans take a daily multivitamin to help prevent cancer and heart attacks but the physicians who analyzed the studies said there is no evidence that a daily vitamin does anything to prevent chronic conditions. Proponents of vitamins claim that the studies were flawed and only looked at healthy participants that don't reflect the average American population.

There are still some agreed upon benefits of multivitamins. Daily prenatal vitamins are still essential for women of childbearing age to help prevent birth defects. But the jury seems to be out on whether vitamins do anything for the general population.

Are vitamins just a waste of money? Does it depend on what type and dosage you're taking? If the supplements aren't harmful, could it hurt to pop a vitamin anyway in case it might help? Why do so many American swear by their daily vitamin?

Guests: 

Marian Neuhouser, member in cancer prevention at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. 

Cara Welch, PhD, Senior VP of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the Natural Products Association, a nonprofit organization representing the supplement and natural product industry in D.C.


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