Multivitamin supplements - multiple points of view Although it is tempting to cite statistics regarding the hundreds of studies done over the years to determine whether taking a multivitamin is beneficial or harmful, I will spare you all the boring numbers and details. I prefer to look at things from a larger perspective. Although the following statement may be controversial, I will come out and say it. "The majority of the studies that have been done to date regarding the influence of multivitamins on health and disease are worthless." Why? Because many of the epidemiological studies evaluating millions of multivitamin users did not bother to differentiate the fact that there are thousands of different multivitamin products and each has a different composition and dosage of vitamins and minerals. It's like grouping all wine drinkers together whether they drink white wine, rose, red wine, or whether they drink an ounce a day or a bottle a day.
Most of the studies do not differentiate the type of vitamin E present in the supplement products. Vitamin E comes in a synthetic version and in a natural version, i.e, dl-alpha tocopherol or d-alpha tocopherol. Just this difference alone could have an effect on health. Plus, there are many other forms of tocopherols, including alpha, delta, gamma, etc. The majority of multivitamin products only have the synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol version of vitamin E. It is possible that taking a high dose of a synthetic form of vitamin E could be harmful whereas taking a vitamin E complex that includes the full range of tocopherols could be beneficial. One additional point to keep in mind is dosage. It is possible that low amounts of vitamin E complex could have a beneficial effect on longevity whereas very high dosages could have the reverse effect.
Multivitamin and mineral supplements also contain vitamins A, B, C, D, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, chromium, selenium, etc. Over the past few years more multivitamin products now include a number of other nutrients and herbal extracts such as CoQ10, choline, bioflavonoids, green tea, etc Therefore, a researcher who does a study lumping together all types of multivitamin products even though each product is different does not really understand supplements that well.
One additional point I would like to make is the role of selenium. In the April 2008 issue of the newsletter I briefly mentioned that some early reports indicate that having a too low intake of selenium or taking too high a dosage of selenium could reduce longevity whereas having a normal intake was optimal. Here is another reason why these multivitamin studies could be flawed. Perhaps some of the multivitamin products people were taking had too much selenium.
Bottom line: I personally take MultiVit Rx on days when I wish to have more energy. I take MultiVit Rx 2 or 3 days a week since it provides me with a sense of vitality and wellbeing. I feel more motivated and can get more work done. I have no idea how it influences longevity but I don't take it for that purpose. I don't think we are going to find out about the risks and benefits of multivitamins until several different formulas, developed by experienced nutritional experts, are tested for at least 10 to 20 years on a large group of people.