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Any Benefit to Multivitamins?

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70 percent of those age 65 and older—take a multivitamin or another vitamin or mineral supplement regularly. The total price tag exceeds $12 billion per year—money that Johns Hopkins nutrition experts say might be better spent on nutrient-packed foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

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Will a Daily Vitamin Help Keep Your Heart Healthy?

The Vitamin Verdict

The researchers concluded that multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline (such as memory loss and slowed-down thinking) or an early death. They also noted that in prior studies, vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements appear to be harmful, especially at high doses.

“Pills are not a shortcut to better health and the prevention of chronic diseases,” says Larry Appel, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research. “Other nutrition recommendations have much stronger evidence of benefits—eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar you eat.”

The exception is supplemental folic acid for women of child-bearing potential, Appel says. “Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in babies when women take it before and during early pregnancy. That’s why multivitamins are recommended for young women.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all women of reproductive age get 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. The amount of iron in a multivitamin may also be beneficial for women of child-bearing potential, Appel adds.

“I don’t recommend other supplements,” Appel says. “If you follow a healthy diet, you can get all of the vitamins and minerals you need from food.”

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