Light Wave


Daily Multivitamins Don’t Increase Lifespan, New Study Suggests

By Jake Beardslee · June 27, 2024

A new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published Wednesday casts doubt on the widespread use of multivitamin supplements, suggesting they may offer little to no benefit in reducing mortality rates. The research, led by Dr. Neal D. Barnard and colleagues, analyzed data from three large cohorts totaling 390,124 participants over more than 20 years.  Volodymyr Hryshchenko / Unsplash

Despite the popularity of multivitamins, with approximately one in three U.S. adults using them, the study, published in JAMA Network Open, found no association between multivitamin use and decreased mortality. In fact, the findings indicated a slightly increased risk of death among supplement users in the initial years of follow-up.  Michał Parzuchowski / Unsplash

"Mortality risk was 4% higher among multivitamin users, compared with nonusers, in the initial years of follow-up," the researchers reported.  Laurynas Me / Unsplash

Dr. Barnard and his team emphasize the importance of obtaining nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements. "Refocusing nutrition interventions on food, rather than supplements, may provide the mortality benefits that multivitamins cannot deliver," they wrote in their commentary.  Yu Hosoi / Unsplash

The study highlights the potential risks associated with certain supplement ingredients. For instance, while food sources of beta carotene are linked to reduced cancer risk, supplemental beta carotene was found to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers and asbestos workers. Additionally, the researchers noted concerns about iron and copper supplementation, which may contribute to various health issues when consumed in excess.  Myriam Zilles / Unsplash

However, the authors acknowledge that multivitamins may have benefits not captured by mortality data. These include slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration, improving memory in older adults, and preventing neural tube defects in infants when folate is supplemented during pregnancy.  Raimond Klavins / Unsplash

The researchers suggest a more targeted approach to supplementation, stating, "When supplementation is required, it can often be limited to the micronutrients in question." This recommendation aligns with the growing body of evidence supporting the superior health benefits of nutrient-rich whole foods.   Ola Mishchenko / Unsplash

The study points to the dietary patterns found in "Blue Zones" – regions known for exceptional longevity – as examples of nutrient-rich, plant-based diets associated with improved health outcomes. "Vegetables, fruits, legumes, and cereal grains are staples in areas of remarkable longevity," the authors noted.  Alexandre Chambon / Unsplash

Dr. Barnard and his colleagues emphasize the importance of a balanced, whole-food approach to nutrition: "A healthful dietary pattern delivers micronutrients while also providing healthful macronutrients and fiber and limiting consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol."  Brooke Lark / Unsplash

As consumers continue to spend billions on multivitamins annually, this study suggests that investing in a diverse, plant-rich diet may be a more effective strategy for long-term health.  Markus Spiske / Unsplash

The findings of this study do not negate the potential benefits of targeted supplementation for specific health conditions or nutrient deficiencies. However, they do challenge the notion that a daily multivitamin is a useful insurance policy for overall health and longevity.   Vitalii Pavlyshynets / Unsplash

The study concludes with a clear message: "Considerable evidence now shows that, apart from the aforementioned roles for vitamin supplementation, there is little health rationale for the use of multivitamin supplements."  Leohoho / Unsplash