Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

Multivitamin a Day – A False Sense of Security

by | Jan 30, 2013

There is really no short cut to eating a balanced diet. You cannot get the all the necessary nutrients any other way. Unfortunately, too many people don’t seem to make the effort. Instead they resort to vitamins and supplements expecting these pills to fill the gaps in their diet. But all that these pills do is give you a false sense of security.

I often ask my patients, “Why are you taking these vitamin pills and supplements?” They usually tell me, “It’s an insurance policy”. Even my medical colleagues and closest relatives give me the same reason for popping these pills.

During one of my visits to India, my mother-in-law asked me to help persuade my father-in-law to take his medicines regularly. For a long time, he was not on any medications and the picture of good health. But as time went on, he was placed on several pills which he did not like. So he would take the pills from his wife’s hand only to pitch some of them in the garbage as soon as she wasn’t looking. Finding pills in different garbage bins every day clearly frustrated my mother-in-law.

So I started to investigate. It turned out that my father-in-law was on several pills for high blood pressure and diabetes, as well a number of vitamins and supplements. The largest pills happen to be these supplements, which he was having difficulty swallowing. So he tossed those, but took the others.

I told him I wouldn’t take those oversized supplement pills either because research shows that they don’t improve our health. He smiled at me mischievously and I instantly became his favorite. But I have yet to convince my mother-in-law that vitamin pills lack any health value.

My mother-in-law wasn’t the only one devoted to the idea of supplements and vitamins. Every house I visited on that trip had a pharmacy, with the bulk of the pills actually being supplements. Nearly everybody over 60 years of age was taking supplements. Many of these pills and tonics are very attractively packaged like perfumes in our department stores, and priced accordingly. Yet even the families with limited income were meticulous about making sure they took these pricey supplements.

The attitude towards vitamin pills is not much different in America. One third of all American adults take a supplement. For the most part, they’re throwing their money away.

One of the most recent studies, published in the Journal of American Medical Association in November 2012, concludes that a multivitamin a day does not reduce cardiovascular disease in men. In this study supported by the American Heart Association and National Institute of Health, 14, 641 men were studied for 11 years. In this randomized double blind controlled study, half of them were given a multivitamin and other half received a placebo. At the end of the study period the men who received the actual vitamin pill showed no reduction of cardiovascular event.

This is not the first time that a study has failed show the benefit of taking vitamin pills in the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancers. In fact there have some studies showing that some pills may actually increase the risk and other studies showing only a marginal benefit at best. On balance, the data shows that vitamin pills do not help our health.

All major medical societies and health care organizations recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetable to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers; not vitamin pills. Yet millions of adults worldwide continue to consume vitamin supplements. Some spend their precious financial resources on these useless supplements.

So why would you want to take something that does not help and call it an insurance policy? Don’t waste your money in exchange for a false sense of security.

In the upcoming writings we will help you better understand why it is not a good idea to trust vitamin pills over a balanced diet. As we go along we will explore why vitamin pills don’t work the same way as the actual natural source like wholesome fruits and vegetables. We will use the same easy-to-understandable language, analogies and illustrations that worked well in Salt Kills to get you to focus on a balanced diet.

Stay tuned


  1. Bachar

    Try explaining that to my mother. No luck. Not only vitamins but also the expensive one with the best advertisement . Thanks for the Media. 

  2. Rob

    Amen! Hit the salad bar and put as many colors on your plate as possible. Even if your lunch tally is 4 or 5 dollars, this is money better spent than putting your hard earned dollars into bottles of "hocus pocus" supplements.

  3. Leatha Ross

    I must admit, I take one supplement but after reading the post I conclude that  am wasting my money. Hitting the salad bar is my best option during lunch. Thanks for the info. I look forward to reading upcoming writings. 

  4. Hari

    You can get all the vitamins and mlairnes that you need simply by eating a good balanced diet within all the required food groups. However, vitamin supplements never hurt either.I would be curious to know who they are that say these don’t work or do more harm than good. Before I got concerned that any of it was true, I would want documented scientific proof. Just sounds like someone’s silly opinion to me. Vitamins have been around for ages and ages.


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