Should You Take a Multivitamin?
Expert: Alan R. Gaby, MD, author of Nutritional Medicine, a resource guide on supplements, and former president of the American Holistic Medical Association
"Evidence of the positive effects of multivitamins on chronic illness is not as strong as we'd like, but lack of evidence to support something is not the same as evidence that it doesn't work. During my 19 years as a practicing physician, I've had patients who complained of fatigue, poor sleep, and agitation, and one of the first things I would recommend was a multivitamin. When they came back for a follow-up, most of them said they had more energy and were sleeping better, their mood had improved, and they were less anxious. Research supports this. A small 2012 study in Nutrition Journal found that after taking a daily multivitamin for 16 weeks, 29 percent of women reported higher energy levels and better mood, compared with less than 10 percent of those taking a placebo. Of course, diet, exercise, quitting smoking, and reducing stress have a bigger impact on your risk of chronic illness than a supplement, but just because vitamins are not at the top of the list doesn't mean they're not good for you."
...Or Not to Take?
Expert: Michael L. LeFevre, MD, professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri and co-vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
"It seems logical to think multivitamins could lower the risk for illnesses like cardiovascular disease and cancer by making up for nutritional deficits, but it's simply not supported by science. Last year when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force set out to review studies exploring the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements, we hoped to find tons of high-quality studies. In the end, there were 26, only two of which looked at multivitamins. One showed a hint of a benefit for lower incidence of cancer among men, but none in women. Not surprisingly, we concluded that there is insufficient evidence to say multivitamins can help lower the risk of these chronic diseases. The most beneficial way to get the vitamins and minerals you need is to eat right. Some studies have found that diets rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of cancer and heart disease. My opinion as a family physician is that my mother got it right when she told me to eat my vegetables."
The Last Word:
While multivitamins may help boost energy, when it comes to lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, they're no replacement for a healthy diet.