Supplements have a critical place in the general public’s diet, but were never intended to serve as magic bullets for the prevention of serious diseases, the US Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has stressed. The comment comes in response to a widely circulated study that emphasizes that taking multivitamin and mineral supplements does not prevent strokes, heart attacks or deaths related to cardiovascular disease.
Published online yesterday in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study has been picked up by a number of mainstream media outlets.
The researchers involved hope that their findings will help “decrease the hype around multivitamin and mineral supplements.”
The research team performed a meta-analysis of 18 individual published studies, with the data set totaling more than 2 million participants with an average of 12 years of follow-up contact. Researchers found no association between taking multivitamin and mineral supplements and a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.
Lead author Joonseok Kim, M.D., Assistant Professor of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine, tells UAB News it has been difficult to convince people, including nutritional researchers, to acknowledge that multivitamin and mineral supplements do not prevent cardiovascular diseases.
According to Kim, the widespread popularity of multivitamin and mineral dietary supplements is due to the popular belief that multivitamin supplements may help maintain and promote health by preventing various diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
“I hope our study findings help decrease the hype around multivitamin and mineral supplements and encourage people to use proven methods to reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases — such as eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising and avoiding tobacco,” Kim says.
During the research process, Kim and his team followed the National Institutes of Health definition of a multivitamin — a dietary supplement comprising more than three vitamin and mineral ingredients.
“Although multivitamin and mineral supplements taken in moderation rarely cause direct harm, we urge people to protect their heart health by understanding their individual risk for heart disease and stroke and working with a healthcare provider to create a plan that uses proven measures to reduce risk,” Kim notes.
In response to the study, Duffy MacKay, N.D., Senior Vice President, CRN Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, notes that multivitamin supplements have a critical place in promoting and preserving good health, and the findings of this new meta-analysis do not discount the multivitamin’s many benefits.
“Seventy-three percent of Americans take a multivitamin as part of a healthy lifestyle. Government research has repeatedly demonstrated serious nutrient shortfalls among the US population – a majority of Americans fail to achieve recommended levels of essential nutrients through food alone, and this ‘hidden hunger’ is especially prevalent among low-income Americans,” he says.
According to MacKay, a daily multivitamin is an affordable and convenient way to combat insufficient nutrient levels among all economic classes – for less than a dime a day, consumers can assure they are getting the recommended levels of nutrients essential to everyday life, activity and body function.
“CRN stresses that multivitamins fill nutrient gaps in our less-than-perfect diets and support a host of other physiological functions, but they are not intended to serve as magic bullets for the prevention of serious diseases. Cardiovascular disease, in particular, is multifactorial; it has many contributing causes, and a cardiovascular disease diagnosis should lead to comprehensive treatment,” he says.