Can multivitamins help you live longer? This is what a new study says

The study says that multivitamins have no bearing on the mortality risk from various heart problems and other chronic diseases.
Multivitamins being taken out of a bottle
Multivitamins have no effect on the mortality risk of people suffering from cancer or other diseases. Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 2 Jul 2024, 19:54 pm IST
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In the world of supplements, multivitamins may be hailed as superheroes, but all that glitters about them, may not be gold. While people consume multivitamins for a variety of health problems and deficiencies, a new study points out that multivitamins do not increase a person’s longevity as they claim in its benefits.

The study, published in Jama Network Open, highlights the inability of multivitamins to decrease the rate of death due to chronic diseases such as cancer or even heart disease.

Study on multivitamins and its benefits for longevity

The study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health, where data from 400,000 healthy US-based adults was collected over 20 years, and evaluated. It claimed that one in three adults takes multivitamins to prevent disease. The study found out that taking multivitamins for more than 20 years also will have no bearing on how long you live. There were no changes in mortality risk if you are suffering from cancer, heart disease or cerebrovascular disease. It concluded that taking multivitamins to live longer is an unsupported claim.

The participants of the study were taken from three earlier studies. They had no history of heart disease or other chronic diseases. They had been part of the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study, Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, and Agricultural Health Study (19 660 participants).

Surprisingly, it was also seen that daily multivitamin users had a four percent higher mortality risk than non-users. The study was a follow-up of a 2022 analysis by the US Preventive Services Task Force, where no conclusion was drawn about whether multivitamins decreased mortality risk.

A spoon of pills
Multivitamins should only be taken after asking your doctor for the right kind and dosage. Image courtesy: Freepik

What is the use of taking multivitamins?

While multivitamin use has declined by 6 percent from 1999 to 2011, states the study, it is still widely popular. Many people take it to keep diseases at bay. “Multivitamins are used to supplement your diet with multivitamins consisting of essential and specific vitamins and minerals that might not be adequately obtained from food alone for certain individuals. This can help avoid deficiencies, improve overall health and easily ensure a balanced nutrition intake,” explains Internal medicines doctor Dr Basavaraj S Kumbar. Multivitamins are particularly beneficial for individuals on restricted diets, with certain health conditions or increased nutrient requirements, he adds. A study published in the American Journal of Nutrition also states that taking multivitamins can improve your memory as well as slow down cognitive ageing.

Do multivitamins have any bearing on mortality risk?

No. The research suggests that taking multivitamins doesn’t significantly influence the risk of death. “However, some large-scale have shown that while they can protect against malnutrition, they do not prevent mortality from major chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease,” says Dr Kumbar. It is important to concentrate on a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet to acquire long-term health benefits.

However, the study also lists some limitations. One such limitation arises from the people using these multivitamins. It talks about the ‘sick user effect’, and the ‘healthy user effect’. The ‘sick user effect’ is people who are sick and are taking multivitamins for their health conditions. The ‘healthy user effect’ talks about people who are healthy and are more inclined to take multivitamins than other people who are not particular about their health. All this can bring about some objections to the study’s conclusion about multivitamins and mortality risk.

Why do doctors recommend multivitamins?

Dieticians and doctors may suggest taking multivitamins based on individual needs and health problems. “For people with specific vitamin deficiencies, particular medical conditions, or dietary restrictions and limitations, this may be useful,” says Dr Kumbar. However, their main emphasis would often be getting nutrients from a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins whenever possible.

Yellow and white pills
Multivitamins should only be taken by people with specific vitamin deficiencies, particular medical conditions, or dietary restrictions and limitations. Image courtesy: Pexels

What to remember while taking multivitamins?

If you have to take multivitamins, then it is important to be careful about a few things. To avoid potential toxicity, it is important to follow the recommended dosage when using multivitamins. “It is also important to be aware of any interactions with medications you are taking and choose one that suits your specific nutritional needs,” says Dr Kumbar. It is best to consult the doctor or nutritionist first.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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