I am sure some of you saw the multiple vitamin study in the news that said that taking a multiple vitamin might increase risk of death in women who take them. Well that got my attention until I read the study. A total of 38,772 older women were included in the analysis. Women were aged between 55 to 69 years, with an average of 61.6 years at the beginning of the study in 1986. This was Self-reported data on vitamin supplement use from 1986, 1997, and 2004. If you look at the study a couple of things come out. First the study points out that these women also reported more use of estrogen replacement therapy. So how do they know this slight increase in risk of death was not due to the hormonal replacement. Second this is a non controled self reported study and they are not the most reliable and therefore not used to show cause and effect. There are also questions about what type and form of each vitamin, this was not disclosed. They point out that Although many vitamin supplements did not appear to be associated with a higher risk for total mortality, several were, including multivitamins, vitamins B6, and folic acid, as well as minerals iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper. Well there are many questions here, what was the total mg/day, what form was the vitamin in, minerals should not be taken separately unless under a doctors supervision. Calcium should be paired with Magnesium, Zinc should be paired with Copper, Iron should only be taken if you have low ferritin per a blood test. Each of these vitamins or minierals can be used separately short term for a therapeutic effect, but not long term by themselves. This is why it is important to see a Naturopathic doctor who is trained in nutrition, vitamins, minerals and herbs. ND’s are the only licensed primary care physicians that have formal training in these areas. I can’t tell you how many times I have patients come in with literally large garbage bags full of supplements that they got from the internet, or healthfood store, especially cancer patients. We go through each of these.products and most are in the wrong forms or duplicates and I end up taking them off of most of them. That savings alone many times pays for my visit.
What this study does do, is remind us that if you want to use supplements, you should not self-prescribe over-the-counter medicines unless you know what you are doing. Please find a licensed ND who is knowledgable and informed about recommending vitamins, herbal medicines, supplements, dietary changes, etc as medically indicated.
Cynthia Bye, ND