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Recently Reported Multi-Vitamin Study – Poor Design and Faulty Conclusions

Posted by Well Being Holistic Pharmacy on

Recently there were news reports about a study supposedly identifying the fact that older women are actually harmed, and their death rate is higher, from taking a multi vitamin. Here is a link to the ABC News report of this study. I want to make comment about this study and about the way that the medical industry, and in turn the media, look to control the information that you use to make decisions for yourself and intimidate you into believing that they have your best interest at heart. First, about the study. This was a retrospective study done with women 55 and older over a period of 25 years. What that means is that women were sent questionnaires at certain times… one in 1986, one in 1997 and one in 2004. One of the questions they were asked was if they took a multi-vitamin. Upon statistical analysis there was a slightly higher death rate in the women who said they did take a multi-vitamin. They were not given a definition of what a multi-vitamin is or asked what brand they were taking, if they were taking it consistently, or even why they were taking it. No attempts were made to verify the accuracy of the responses either. This is what I would call a poorly designed study! The asking of why someone was taking the multi-vitamin was probably the most important factor missing. That’s because therein lies the explanation for the statistical observation of a slightly higher death rate in the multi-vitamin taking women. People that have some sort of chronic disease are more likely to turn to vitamins to help them. So that population is already likely to have a higher death rate. In actuality, the study authors recognized this fact and stated in the study the following, “…it is not advisable to make a causal statement of excess risk based on these observational data…” So what I don’t get is how this was reported by the media. The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, and practically everyone else reported it the same way… multi-vitamins can harm you. Then they always interview some “expert” who makes more ridiculous comments that seem to further remove us from the original supposition. My favorite was this one… “The take-home message: Most Americans get the nutrients they eat from food. As boring as that mantra sounds, you are better off eating fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly and maintaining a normal weight. A pill will seldom substitute.” What a goof! If that statement is true, then why do we suffer from chronic disease the way we do in this country? And, by the way, isn’t it traditional medicine that looks to fix our problems with a pill? The bottom line is that we all need to eat better, get exercise, get proper sleep, and reduce our stresses… and taking a high-quality, properly formulated multi-vitamin is an excellent way to make sure that your body gets all of the nutrients that it needs! Here are a few recommendations:

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