When it comes to filling in nutritional gaps and making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals, popping a daily multivitamin just seems to make sense. But does it really give your body the nutrients it needs, or do you only feel better because you think that’s happening? As it turns out, a new study suggests it may just be that second option.
Research published in the journal BMJ Open notes that multiple clinical trials have failed to identify clinically measurable health benefits of multivitamins and supplements with multiple mineral formulations. Getting data from just over 20,000 people, researchers didn’t find any differences in chronic disease history or health conditions between those who take the vitamins and those who don’t. However, about a third of those who take these supplements report better overall health than non-users. (Related: 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.)
In short, the evidence that multivitamins and mineral formulas work to improve health is inconclusive at best. Though the researchers did acknowledge that the study has some limitations, with regard to the reliability of self-reported data. Still, this isn’t the first study to question the benefits of multivitamins.
For example, a study on cardiovascular outcomes published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that multivitamins, as well as other nutritional supplements like omega-3s and folic acid, didn’t seem to have a significant effect on heart health. Similarly, a report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found “limited evidence” supporting claims that vitamin and mineral supplementation could help prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease.
So, does that mean you should stop taking supplements altogether? Some experts believe it depends on whether you’re in the group that believes it’s helpful.
“There is quite a bit of value in thinking a supplement is improving your health,” says vitamin researcher Safi Khan, M.D., of West Virginia University. “That can lead to making other healthy decisions, like increasing your physical activity level, getting better sleep, or eating healthier meals.”
In other words, just because it may be “all in your head” doesn’t mean that psychological boost should be ignored. However, as Khan says, if you’re taking these supplements just because you think you should, and not seeing any health benefits, it might be time to rethink your vitamin habits.
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