Research piling up against use of multivitamins

Cardiologist Ira Ockene says most people get adequate nutrition from daily diet

By Lisa M. Larson and Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

December 18, 2013

The latest research on multivitamins shows what experts including UMass Medical School cardiologist Ira Ockene, MD, have long suspected: Daily multivitamins offer no help in preventing heart disease, nor do they prevent a decline in cognition in aging men. Both studies, published Dec. 17 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, give more proof not to take them.

“There is not a good rationale for most people to take a multivitamin,” said Dr. Ockene the David J. and Barbara D. Milliken Professor of Preventive Cardiology and professor of medicine. “Most people take in all the vitamins they need—with the possible exception of vitamin D—in food.”

Ockene said the only people who may benefit from such supplements are those so sick or frail that they do not eat enough food to get the nutrition their bodies need. He does recommend vitamin D—particularly in New England when sunshine dwindles—or iron, but only for those lacking in it.

“Generally, multivitamins don’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

Exercise is actually key to good nutrition, Ockene said.

“The most important part of a healthy diet is physical activity because if you’re physically active, you eat more and eating more means you get more of everything—more iron, more vitamins—you name it,” he said.

In this Expert’s Corner video, Dr. Ockene references an American Medical Association study, published last year, that found no cardiac health benefit to taking a daily multivitamin.