Entries in Multivitamin (4)


Mixed Results on the Benefits of Multivitamins

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many Americans spend billions of dollars each year on multivitamins, assuming that taking one daily will help protect them against certain diseases, even though there's been no conclusive studies on the benefits of taking multivitamins.

New findings from a long-term study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, suggest that multivitamins do not protect against heart disease in men.  The study, which included nearly 15,000 male physicians over age 50, found that those who took a daily multivitamin for more than 10 years did not reduce their risk for heart attack, stroke or death.

The findings are part of the large-scale Physicians' Health Study II, which has been tracking the long-term effects of multivitamins on the risk of heart-related diseases and cancer.

While this larger trial is the only one to research the effects of multivitamins as opposed to single types of vitamins, the findings add to the debate of what benefits, if any, daily multivitamin use may hold for men.

"Just because [a multivitamin] doesn't do everything for all things, doesn't mean you can't consider all of its effects," said Dr. Michael Gaziano, chief of the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and senior author of the study.

Gaziano also co-wrote another study published in JAMA in October that used the same group of participants.  That study found daily multivitamin use for an average of 11 years had a modest effect on preventing cancer in men over age 50.  Older men who took a multivitamin long-term had an 8 percent lower risk of cancer compared to those who took a placebo.

"While I can't say definitively, most of the things that seem to work in men, may work in women too," said Gaziano, who added that additional studies should look at multivitamin effects on women.

These results also contrasted with findings of previous research that found taking some types of vitamins showed either no reduction in cancer risk, or a small increase.

Forty-two percent of American adults take multivitamins regularly, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers.

In general, studies on multivitamins have left many men and their physicians with more questions than answers, some experts said.

"It's not clear if some men would benefit more than others, and if so, who those men might be," said Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian and associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.  "Also, not all multivitamins are the same."

According to Dr. Eva Lonn, professor in the division of cardiology at McMaster University and Hamilton General Hospital in Ontario, Canada, the conflicting findings on vitamin combinations for disease prevention only suggest that vitamins alone should not be used as a single method to prevent any disease.

Many with heart problems avoid tried and true methods of prevention such as healthy eating, exercising, and avoiding smoking, and instead rely solely on vitamins, she said.

"This distraction from effective CVD [cardiovascular disease] prevention is the main hazard of using vitamins and other unproven supplements," Lonn wrote in an accompanying editorial published Monday in JAMA.

For both men and women, multivitamins should be considered an added benefit to be used with other healthy lifestyle habits, said Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale School of Medicine.

Both findings from the Physician Health Study II are "not a reason to banish the multivitamin, but it certainly is another reason not to bank on one, either," said Katz.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Multivitamins Cut Cancer Risk in Men, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's a decision that millions of Americans face every morning: to take, or not to take, that multivitamin.  Now, a new study of almost 15,000 men over 50 suggests popping that daily supplement could cut cancer rates by 8 percent.

The study is good news for some Americans, who spend billions of dollars each year on the assumption that taking a daily multivitamin will help prevent disease.

"Despite the lack of definitive trial data regarding the benefits of multivitamins in the prevention of chronic disease, including cancer, many men and women take them for precisely this reason," said Dr. Michael Gaziano, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  "Our study shows a modest but significant benefit in cancer prevention."

It's unclear whether the results apply to women or men under 50.

Previous large studies, including a 180,000-patient study started in 1992 and the Women's Health Initiative study of 160,000 women published in 2009, found that multivitamins had little to no effect on the risk of cancer.  In fact, a 2010 Swedish study of 35,000 women who reported using multivitamins had an increased risk of breast cancer.  So what changed?

First, the new study randomly assigned men to two groups, one of which took a daily Centrum Silver® while the other took a placebo pill.  Previous multivitamin studies have been observational, meaning that the participants weren't compared with someone taking a placebo.

Second, it followed the men, who were 65 years old on average, over 11 years -- a longer follow-up than previous studies and sufficient time for cancer to develop.

And finally, the trial 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, which is very different from how people normally get the vitamins and minerals they need from food.

"The reduction in total cancer risk in [the study] argues that the broader combination of low-dose vitamins and minerals contained in the [Centrum Silver®] multivitamin, rather than an emphasis on previously tested high-dose vitamins and mineral trials, may be paramount for cancer prevention," said Gaziano.

"Clearly the notion of megadoses of isolated nutrients has been proven wrong again and again," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, who was not involved in the study.  "Maybe the active ingredient in broccoli is broccoli."

So if a multivitamin prevents cancer because it provides a mix of nutrients similar to food, why not just eat more fruits and vegetables?  Diets high in fruits and vegetables have been shown in observational studies to reduce the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases.  But only 1.5 percent of the public gets the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, according to Katz.

Katz compared the results of this study to a prior study from Europe that showed people who never smoke, have a body mass index or BMI lower than 30, get regular exercise and adhere to a healthy diet, can reduce their risk of chronic disease by almost 80 percent.

"Clearly however, taking a multivitamin is easy; changing dietary patterns is hard," he said.

The Centrum Silver® used in the study was provided by the manufacturer Pfizer, but Pfizer did not fund the study.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pfizer Pulls Breast, Colon Health Claims from Centrum Labels

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Pfizer, accused of deceptive advertising, has agreed to remove the "breast health" and "colon health" claims from the labels of Centrum vitamins.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, threatened to sue Pfizer, insisting "those claims of breast and colon health implied that the supplements would prevent breast and colon cancer -- disease prevention claims that supplement manufacturers can't legally make."

"Breast health" and "colon health" appear on different Centrum products.  Other Centrum vitamins have labels claiming they promote "heart health," as well as having wording that implies the vitamins provide an energy boost.

Pfizer also agreed to change the wording on the labels containing the heart and energy claims.  The company will add "Not a replacement for cholesterol-lowering drugs" along with the "heart health" wording.  And on packages with statements about energy, there will be additional information to make it clear that the product does not boost energy.

"For many consumers, a daily multivitamin is an expensive insurance policy to make sure that one's getting the recommended daily amounts of important vitamins and minerals," CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner said in a statement.  "But supplement manufacturers must not mislead consumers into thinking that these pills will help ward off cancer."

Pfizer said in a statement that it disagrees with CSPI, but agreed to make the changes to resolve the matter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Should You Take a Multivitamin?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's been a tough week for vitamins. Researchers published back-to-back studies this week suggesting that daily diet supplements have few benefits and could even be harmful. These findings leave many people wondering if taking a daily diet supplement is a good idea.

One study found that older women who take daily diet supplements of iron, copper, magnesium, and other vitamins faced a slightly higher risk of death than women who did not. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) published another study linking daily intake of vitamin E to a 17 percent greater risk of prostate cancer.

So should people really be taking vitamins? Experts say some people should. Pregnant women or people with specific vitamin deficiencies can benefit from adding vitamins to their diets.

But other healthy people take vitamins believing that they can help prevent disease or simply maintain health. In the past few decades, scientists have conducted multiple studies investigating how supplemental vitamins affect a person's risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, and other chronic conditions.

Dr. Steve Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said the evidence showing that supplements actually help with those conditions has been scarce.

"The concept of multi-vitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits. There was never any scientific data supporting their usage," he said.

Dr. Lee Green, a family physician at the University of Michigan, said it's a misconception that supplemental vitamins can lead to better health and help prevent disease.

"You should stop trying to look for health in a pill," Green said. "Health is not found in pills. It's found in good food and regular exercise. Why didn't vitamins deliver on the promise of better health? Because it was a false promise."

Duffy MacKay is the vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), an industry group representing supplement manufacturers. He said scientists usually aren't willing to give vitamins a chance.

"Basically these researchers would rather wait till we all get scurvy before acknowledging any need for supplemental nutrients," MacKay said, in a CRN statement. He added that most consumers shouldn't and don't view vitamins as a magical cure for all their ills.

"Dietary supplements are commonly taken to help prevent chronic disease," MacKay said. "In other words, dietary supplements should not be expected, in and of themselves, and without the synergy of other healthy habits, to prevent chronic disease."

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said the main problems with taking diet supplements are uncertainties and misunderstandings about the proper dose and combination of these vitamins. People often take large doses of vitamins, believing that if the small amounts of nutrients in foods are good, than a lot of them must be better.

"We know that nutrients are beneficial in foods, but divorced of that context, and packaged somewhat 'arbitrarily' by us, the effects may be very different," Katz said. "Imagine if you had all the right materials to build a house but in all the wrong proportions, and then tried to put together a well-built house."

Some doctors say they have recommended that their patients stop taking multivitamins. Others say the evidence that vitamins lack benefits or cause harm isn't well established.

Many experts say most Americans eat well enough to get the vitamins and nutrients they need without taking supplements. Dr. Alice Lichtstein, director and senior scientist, Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University, said the ones who are most likely to take supplements usually see the least amount of benefit from them.

Dr. Jana Klauer, a private practice nutrition physician, said the surest way to get a healthy amount of nutrients is on your plate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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