A few years ago, the news media reveled in erroneously reporting the contentious notion that multivitamin supplements are useless and ineffective, based upon the dubious findings of one single study that was contaminated by egregious study design and wildly broad conclusions. Where do I even begin? Here’s a short list of bullet points that serve to highlight the utter stupidity and lack of science in this so-called “breaking news”:
- Pre-existing health and nutritional status was not screened for the study participants, e.g. existence of or absence of micronutrient deficiencies, their overall health, genomic influences, medications, lifestyle, stress, sleep, endocrine health, or inflammatory markers.
- The study was ripe with numerous confounding variables that were not taken into consideration, such as supplement efficacy and absorption, intracellular uptake, participants’ varied absorptive capacities, the biochemical properties of the supplement’s ingredients (i.e. natural versus synthetic forms of the vitamins), possible sub-clinical dosages of the individual micronutrients contained in the supplement, the wrong ratios of specific vitamins and co-factors that interact positively or negatively with each other, depending on timing and dosing, individual differences in bile-related lipid absorption of the fat soluble vitamins in the supplement, the hydration status of study participants, which can affect water-soluble vitamin absorption. I could go on and on, but I won’t.
- The duration of the study is also relevant, presenting as yet another potentially confounding variable, in terms of assessing long-term chronic disease risk, e.g. cancer and heart disease.
- Most important of all, it is notable that the supplement evaluated in the study was Centrum, which is just about the most garbage synthetic multivitamin available to consumers. It is the multivitamin equivalent of a Big Mac compared with grass-fed filet mignon. Centrum is manufactured by Pfizer, one of the corporations making 70% of the pharmaceuticals that Americans are taking daily. In 2015, Pfizer published profits coming in at $48 billion. I would never go so far as to suggest that they make shoddy supplements to keep consumers needing their medications, but they are making shoddy supplements. All supplements are simply not created equal!
I’m going to cease and desist now, because my blood pressure is going through the roof just thinking about this stuff. I was employed in a doctor’s office when this “news story” hit the media outlets and it is noteworthy that even most of our patients believed that the story was utter nonsense. It took quite a lot of nerve for these so-called “researchers” to conclude that decades of scientific data pertaining to multivitamin supplementation had all been invalidated by them based on a study of a single questionable product, especially when taken in the context of a Standard American Diet (SAD) that is woefully deficient in fruits, vegetables, and nutritionally dense foods. I guess they expect people to get their daily RDA of vitamins from Big Macs, Doritos, and sugar-laden breakfast cereals. Good luck with that, folks. In the meantime, I would respectfully suggest that you invest in a high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement as a kind of “health insurance policy”, unless of course you happen to consume a diet that is so exceptional that Michael Pollan himself would genuflect in your presence!