Dr Bollmann, Skin Care Specialist, Anti-Aging
It would be an understatement to say that there is a lot of confusion out there about multivitamins. This is surprising given the high prevalence of use of multivitamins. In the United States among women overall, more than one third use multivitamins; and among mid-life and older women, more than 50% use multivitamins.
The one randomized trial that has been completed was the US Physicians Health Study-II,[2,3] which included only men but suggested some benefits. The Physicians Health Study-II showed a modest (about 8%) reduction in cancer with use of a daily multivitamin, which could translate into quite a few cases of cancer prevented. Among the men who were aged 70 years and older, there was a statistically significant 18% reduction in cancer. The study also found about a 10% reduction in cataract risk and 10% reduction in cardiovascular disease. Findings suggested that the older men might do better than the younger men with multivitamin use. Overall results favored multivitamin use in men, but it is important to understand whether women may also benefit.
A recent study has been announced which will be a new large-scale, randomized trial of multivitamins in 18,000 participants, 12,000 of whom will be women. This will finally provide us with information about the role of multivitamins in lowering risks in women. We will look at breast cancer, other types of cancers, total cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye diseases, and a large number of chronic disease outcomes.
What should we do in the interim, while awaiting results from this large-scale trial? Many people take multivitamins as an insurance policy because they are concerned about whether their diets are healthful and balanced. That is reasonable practice, but it is important to underscore that multivitamins will never be a substitute for a healthful and balanced diet.
Taking a multivitamin can be a reasonable insurance policy for many people who are concerned about gaps in their diets -- people in older age groups who may have absorption problems, people taking medications that could interfere with absorption, or those who have chronic medical conditions that may increase their nutrient needs.
My personal regimen is a low dose Aspirin (81 mg), a multivitamin, Melatonin 3 mg at bedtime, and CoQ 10 (100 mg).