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June 21, 2022

Why Too Many Vitamins Feels Just About Right

Author Affiliations
  • 1Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
JAMA Intern Med. 2022;182(8):791-792. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2022.0119

Currently, US adults spend more than $10 billion per year on vitamins and dietary supplements,1 believing against most evidence that fortified gummy bears and water infused with vitamins will improve their health and well-being. Vitamins are necessary for life, the difference between healthy gums and scurvy, between strong bones and rickets. But, as the recent US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation statement2 and updated evidence report and systematic review3 show, there is little evidence that supplemental vitamins and minerals prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, or mortality. No vitamins were found to reduce death from cancer or cardiovascular disease, with multivitamins earning an I statement from the USPSTF (meaning that evidence remains insufficient to recommend for or against taking such supplements). Additionally, beta carotene was found to increase the chance of developing lung cancer in high-risk populations, earning it a D recommendation from the USPSTF (recommending against taking such supplements). A total of 84 studies were reviewed,3 testing vitamins in almost 700 000 people, and the rosiest conclusion is that more evidence is needed. In the face of such underwhelming benefits, what explains the number of people who regularly consume these unnecessary supplements?

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