science of us

Save Yourself the Money and Skip the Multivitamins

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As a daily consumer of an iron pill, a biotin pill, a calcium-magnesium pill, and two women’s multivitamins in gummy form, I have long taken for granted that nutritional supplements are doing something for me — helping make up for my low-iron vegetarian diet and nail-weakening manicures, at least. But a new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggests otherwise, at least as far as vitamins meant to prevent cardiovascular disease go.

The study’s researchers examined existing data on subjects’ use of four common supplements (multivitamins, vitamins C and D, and calcium), and found that none of the above showed “consistent benefit” to their users. The sort of good news is that the researchers found no evidence that the supplements hurt their users, either, but at that point you’re kind of just paying to swallow large, bad-tasting, unsuccessful placebos.

Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, the study’s lead author, told Today that people are “bombarded by the marketing for dietary supplements, and may not be fully aware of the lack of evidence for efficacy.” Vitamins are marketed as a targeted shortcut to better health, which is obviously appealing, and market research shows that sales of supplements in the U.S. rise steadily each year. Meanwhile, new millennial-oriented companies like Care/Of and Ritual offer customers “personalized” daily vitamin packs via chic, Glossier-esque websites. But as is so often the case with our health, our bodies respond better to more moderate measures, like eating nutrient and vitamin-rich diets, said Manson. There are still cases where a supplement is advised (like folic acid for pregnant women), but on the whole, generally healthy adults might as well just skip them, and use the medicine-cabinet space for something else.

Save Yourself the Money and Skip the Multivitamins