CancerHeart DiseaseVitamins

Multivitamins: Little value in postmenopausal women

 Multivitamins have little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, cardiovascular disease, or total mortality in postmenopausal women, according to the Women’s Health Initiative study.

First, the details.

  • Data on 161,808 participants from the Women’s Health Initiative clinical studies were collected.
  • Multivitamin use over about 8 years was recorded.

And, the results.

  • 42% of the participants used multivitamins.
  • During the study there were 9,619 cases of breast, colorectal, endometrial, renal, bladder, stomach, lung, or ovarian cancer.
  • There were 8,751 cases of cardiovascular disease and 9,865 deaths.
  • There was no association between multivitamin use and the risk of any cancer.
  • There was no association between multivitamin use and cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and venous thromboembolism, or mortality.

The bottom line?
The evidence is adding up that vitamins — at least at the doses they are usually taken — are not insurance against cancer, cardiovascular disease, or death.

Other negative studies of individual vitamins and minerals published in the past year are summarized here, here, here, and here.

Should we take vitamins?

Dr. George Obikoya, an advocate for taking vitamins tells us, “Your body needs vitamins to… do many things, like help you grow and develop. It needs vitamins to help your blood clot when you get a cut… make energy… see in color… make your teeth healthy and strong.”

But the issue is whether in the absence of a documented deficiency there is a need to take supplements. For example, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that higher doses of vitamin D supplementation may be needed for people with known risk factors for vitamin D deficiency — dark skin, elderly, and photosensitive patients.

2/9/09 20:42 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.