In spite of a recent study suggesting that taking a daily multivitamin may do more harm than good, HSPH researchers say that may not be the case, especially for people who don’t eat a healthful diet. A daily multivitamin pill offers a safe and simple dose of essential micronutrients. Nearly 40 percent of adults in the U.S. take a multivitamin to ensure good health. (1) A recent study in Iowa women suggests that this daily habit may be doing more harm than good. (2) A closer look, however, reveals major flaws in the study—and offers reassurance that taking a daily multivitamin may still be a smart move.
The precise requirements for various vitamins have been controversial since their discovery in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The early recommendations were based on the amounts needed to avoid so-called diseases of deficiency such as scurvy (too little vitamin C), beri-beri (too little vitamin B1), pellagra (too little vitamin B3), and rickets (too little vitamin D). Ongoing research suggests a broader role for vitamins. Work by Dr. Bruce N. Ames of the University of California, Berkeley, and others shows that deficiencies in many micronutrients can lead to damage to DNA, the essential “blueprint” of each cell. (3) Such damage can cause or accelerate aging-related conditions. (4) This would make chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, vision loss, and a host of others a new type of deficiency disease.