Vitamins: hype versus evidence?

downloadIt’s extremely hard for consumers to make informed choices about dietary supplements and vitamins because of a dearth of exacting studies, the lack of regulations, and conflicting information from nutrition and medical science. A while back I stopped buying multivitamins after reading and viewing warnings from oncologist David Agus (Tedtalks,Youtube, and book).  But in 2012 he responded, with caution, to a new study that tested placebos versus Centrum Silver in male physicians age 50 or older (mean age 64.3); they were followed for about 11.2 years. 


The Physicians’ Health Study II (PHS II) represents the only large-scale, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial testing the long-term effects of a common multivitamin in the prevention of chronic disease. We present the findings for
multivitamin use on total and other common site-specific cancers; the effects of a multivitamin on cardiovascular events, eye disease, and cognitive decline are being published separately.


In this large-scale randomized trial of 14,641 middle-aged and older men, a daily multivitamin supplement significantly but modestly reduced the risk of total cancer during a mean of 11 years of treatment and follow-up. Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men.

There haven’t been many reliable research recommendations on ways to prevent cancers other than to avoid smoke and other environmental hazards, eat moderately non-processed whole clean foods, drink clean water, and practice safe sex.  This study adds to the list (for men) and is a free download from the Journal of American Medicine (free registration required). Use search term: Physicians’ Health Study IIjama

One of the lead investigators, chronic disease epidemiologist J. M. Graziano MD, works in private research settings and conducts massive research projects for the VA.  He has published many lifestyle studies that may be of interest; some are free to read in PUBMED.

I often choose cheap OTC generics but we bought basic Centrum Silver as per the study. The current non-sale price at Walmart is .08 a pill.  It’s cheaper on Amazon. The pills are on the large size so a pill cutter, often free from a VA pharmacy, might be helpful since chewables cost about .25 a pill.  Shopping divas: Match this $2 off coupon here (with Pfizer registration) with a sale price for a better return on your investment!  For general advice on vitamins, the FDA provides consumer information (LINK).

What is your preference:  just good food or good food + a multivitamin? It has been estimated that 1 in 83 cases of cancer could be prevented.  Should the VA issue these vitamins to veterans in care as a preventative measure?    Would the cost be too great or is the potential social benefit well worth it?  


About Laura

NW Vermont.
This entry was posted in Guest authors, Medical News, research and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Vitamins: hype versus evidence?

  1. Skywalker says:

    Sure, the VA should provide vitamins to vets. I actually had a VA Dr. tell me to get on fish oil and niacin for cholesterol, and it helped more than the statins they prescribed.

    • Kiedove says:

      Yes, I think so too. The investment of a few pennies a day at their rate would probably help. The fish oil ones are on the expensive side so that would be appreciated. We looked for “wild caught” cold water Alaskan frozen fish at Walmart today. One package was sourced from Chile; the other China. We passed on them both. They were expensive and sourced from dubious locations.

      • Skywalker says:

        Not to mention bitter gourd/bitter melon. I had a friend bring these back from Sri Lanka, and I LOVE them–they are delicious. Also great for diabetes and other health causes. They’re hell to find online or in a store though. If you know of a good link to buy more let me know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.