Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 12, 2017

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Do multivitamins live up to their claims?

Multivitamins are viewed as a nutrition insurance policy. But are they actually effective?

Men’s health

Data from the Physicians Healthy Study ll, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is starting to answer some of our questions.1,2 The subjects were male doctors, 50 years and older; the multivitamin used was Centrum Silver, called Centrum Select 50+ in Canada. According to the Physicians Health Study II, multivitamins do not offer protection against heart disease yet provided some protection to those who entered the study with an existing heart condition. Their risk of dying from a heart attack was reduced by 44 percent.
The data from the same study was also analysed to see the multivitamins’ role in the growth of cancer. Here the results were somewhat more promising. The risk of developing any type of cancer was reduced by eight percent, which is statistically significant.2 Participants in the study who previously had cancer also had a reduced risk of the disease reoccurring.

When the data was analysed for site-specific cancers like prostate, colorectal, bladder or lung cancer, the results showed no difference between the placebo and multivitamin groups. When the same results were analyzed for epithelial cell cancers, there was a small but significant decrease in the number of epithelial cancers that developed in the group taking multivitamins.

Brain health

A group of 51 men aged 50 to 74 participated in a placebo-controlled, double-blind study in which they took a multivitamin, mineral and herbal supplement (Swisse Men’s Ultivite, Australia) for eight weeks.3

While cognitive decline in the elderly has been linked to malnutrition, the only aspect of cognition that improved was contextual recognition memory performance. That said, participants did have increased serum levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid, which lead to reduced levels of homocysteine.

Looking at the effect of Swisse Women’s Ultivite on a group of women aged between 64 to 79 years, the results suggest that there was improved neural function during memory retrieval.4 Of all bio markers measured, only homosysteine levels improved.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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