Vitamins: Once -- or none --a day. You decide

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm •  Published: April 14, 2014

(For use by New York Times News Service clients)

c.2014 San Antonio Express-News

Vitamins: Once -- or none -- a day: you decide

By Richard A. Marini

San Antonio Express-News

The promise of those early One-A-Day vitamin ads could be found right there in the name. Take one pill each day and you'll get everything your body needs to stay healthy. Later, supplement makers began slicing and dicing the market until today there are specialized multis for men, women, pregnant women, seniors, children and, I'll bet eventually, basketball fans, people who drive a lot and Hungarians.

About half of all adults 20 and older regularly take at least one dietary supplement, with multivitamins being the most popular. Nearly 40 percent of Americans report taking them, according to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, supplements were a $23.4 billion business in 2012, with sales increasing in both the U.S. and Europe.

The question, of course, is whether all these pills do a body good or are they simply a waste of money. The Annals of Internal Medicine recently ran an editorial with the smashmouth headline, "Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements" that seemed to put that question to rest.

Or -- dun-dun-dun! -- did it?

The editorial reviewed three studies running in the same issue, all of which examined the usefulness of popular vitamin and mineral supplements.

The first, a review of 27 individual trials, concluded that supplements were powerless at preventing death, heart disease or cancer. The second, a large study of older adults, found they did not prevent cognitive decline (i.e. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia). The third found no evidence that high doses of multivitamins prevented second heart attacks.

In other words, multivitamins failed on multiple levels.

"(S)upplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful," the editorial concluded. "These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough."

Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of, an independent nutritional supplement testing lab, sides with the Annals folks. He says that most people who eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables and grains probably don't need to take a daily multi.