Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Multivitamins a waste of money?

  1. Dec 16, 2013 #1
    Are multivitamins a waste of money? Editorial in medical journal says yes

    I've taken vitamins and supplements during some periods and I admit, I can't tell the difference.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 16, 2013 #2
  4. Dec 16, 2013 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    They do make a difference if one is deficient, however, most in the west are not deficient.

    Possibly they are a waste if in excess, because the excess is simply excreted.
  5. Dec 16, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I've been asking doctors about them for decades and have gotten answers all over the map, although none of the answers have been on the order of "everyone should be taking them" whereas on the other had there have been answers on the order of "waste of time ... if your diet is that bad, you are in serious trouble anyway". No one has ever told me they are bad for you though, so I've been taking them all along. I have no idea whether or not they actually do any good.
  6. Dec 17, 2013 #5
    Exactly how hard is it to get everything you need just with food? I mean even those trace elements like molybdenum and those others? It's not easy I think and how would you even know if you're getting everything you need without going through a lot of work researching everything and likely becoming consumed with the ordeal of checking your food so thoroughly. Don't have time for that anyway.

    For the record, I do not feel taking just a multivitamin is a waste of time. I take one 3 or 4 times a week and I try to eat a balanced diet too. For me, that is the best recipe. :)
  7. Dec 18, 2013 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think it's just a marketing scam, like enzyte. They thrill you with tales of vitamin deficiencies that have not existed in the west since the 19th century.
  8. Dec 28, 2013 #7
    Since my company sold its vitamin division, I haven’t kept up to date with the marketing claims. But we used to recommend vitamin supplements for drinkers, smokers, dieters, athletes, sick people, old people, etc. It’s quite a big market.

    There were several claims and rumours about the benefits of Vitamin C as an antioxidant and you were especially recommended to take a heavy dose for colds and flu. Several studies proved this to be invalid.

    Personally I take a half day’s dose of 21 vitamins and minerals every day, just in case it does some good. Apart from that I don’t pay any attention to my diet.

  9. Dec 30, 2013 #8
    I do medication reviews and recommendations for people on multiple prescription drugs and I rarely (if ever) recommend them, unless blood tests show low levels (e.g. Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, etc.). There is little evidence for benefit for most people and some of the anti-oxidants like Vitamin E, beta-carotene, etc. likely pose more harm than benefit:

    The myth of Antioxidants

    Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
  10. Dec 30, 2013 #9


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Very good articles bohm, thank you!
  11. Dec 30, 2013 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    What do you think about the suggestion that people at northern latitude should take vitamin D supplement to make up for lack of sunlight?

  12. Dec 30, 2013 #11


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    There was just a thread about vitamin D supplements. https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=4610231#post4610231

    The harvard link has a lot of old papers referenced, I haven't had a chance to look into the most current, although I do know the maximum dosage has been increased, people should not assume they need supplements, they should be tested by a doctor that also takes into consideration their current health and any issues.
  13. Dec 30, 2013 #12
    I know my sister gives her 6 week old vitamin D supplement.
  14. Dec 30, 2013 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    We did too; my impression is that it's normal for doctors to prescribe it to newborns up north.
  15. Dec 30, 2013 #14


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I think it's recommended for infants, especially breast fed infants not drinking fortified formulas. Where you run into problems is people that start self-medicating without knowing if they have a deficiency or if they have a condition that makes taking a supplement potentially dangerous.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  16. Dec 30, 2013 #15
    We recommend them for people with osteoporosis and on bisphosphonates (e.g. Alendronate, Risedronate), people on corticosteroids and elderly women who rarely go outside and/or consume few dairy foods or if blood tests reveal low levels. But the evidence of benefit (e.g. decreased fracture risk) even for many of these individuals is surprisingly not very strong as noted in this review:

    Calcium and cardiovascular risks

    And we always suggest that people get the vitamins/minerals from dietary sources instead of supplements, because supplements do not seem to show the same benefits seen with dietary sources. Consider, the more recent negative findings of omega-3 (no CVD benefit) and calcium supplements (possible harm), for example.
  17. Dec 31, 2013 #16
    I would only take high dosages of something if the doctor orders it. There are many substances which we ingest every day which are toxic in high doses. I am therefore careful about my alcohol consumption.

    It is typical of animal toxicity studies to give high doses for a long time, in order to indicate the probably toxicity effects of low doses. Unsurprisingly, at high doses the rat develops problems and dies.

    There are statistics on the popularity of vitamin and other dietary supplements including vitamins, but how high are typical effective dosages which people take?

    One suspects that a lot of people are looking for a magic formula or quick fix and do likely overdose. Nobody is recommending that.

    At my company, we never said that vitamin supplements increase life span. We only said that recommended regular doses of multivitamins and minerals could have health benefits. Higher doses have to be recommended by a physician. We marketed multivitamin preparations for unspecified health reasons and not only for anti-oxidative effects.

    This thread is about multivitamins, but it is correct to comment on individual vitamin effects. We should be careful about a one-sided diet too.

    On the other side, people like myself who take small doses of multivitamin and minerals tend to remain unimpressed by studies which we think do not apply to us. This is partly due to our unjustified beliefs which get hard wired. We also like to think that what we do in moderation may not be completely rubbish.

  18. Dec 31, 2013 #17
    This isn't just about toxicity issues but about possibly wasting money for zero benefits (for most people in Industrialized countries, who are pretty well all the buyers). Many human studies have been done looking at the effects of taking a daily multivitamin and benefits have not been seen. Some studies even suggest possible harm:
    Dietary Supplements and Mortality Rate in Older Women
    http://junksciencecom.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/aim-multivitamin-older-women-mortality.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  19. Jan 1, 2014 #18


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    From Science Daily: Most Clinical Studies On Vitamins Flawed by Poor Methodology

    They quote what appears to be an interview with Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University who recently published this article in a journal called "Nutrients".

  20. Jan 1, 2014 #19


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Hmm.... didn't Linus Pauling have some rather crackpot ideas about vitamins - in particular vitamin C ? http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/pauling.html

    And isn't the main natural source of vitamin D exposure to sunlight, not from food? The half-life of vitamin D in the body is 1 to 2 months, so you hardly need a "daily dose" to keep it topped up.
  21. Jan 1, 2014 #20


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I don't know anything about Linus, but your scond from last sentence is what makes me wonder if there's some validity to D supplements for populations far from the equator. Our pediatrician made it sound like there was some science behind it and that D deficiency was typical in the extreme latitudes.

    edit: here's the research:


    They seem to find deficiencies in the winter months in people around the world in northern latitudes. 1/3 of young adults in Finland. In northern Europe, it was prominent in young adolescent girls with measurable effects on bone health. It cites several papers showing deficiencies in the elderly at northern latitudes.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Multivitamins a waste of money?