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Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Are Not a Waste of Money: Comments on a Widely-Publicized Editorial

(Alan R. Gaby, M.D., Past president, American Holistic Medical Association) On Dec. 17, there was widespread coverage in the news media of an editorial that appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Annals), under the title, "Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements." The authors of the editorial concluded, "We believe that the case is closed -- supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough."
However, the editorial appears to be biased and to lack scholarship, as it is based on selective reporting and a superficial analysis of the vast and complex body research on the health effects of nutritional supplements…
Multivitamin-mineral preparations have been shown in published research to have a wide range of benefits, including increasing energy and stress tolerance, improving pregnancy outcomes, decreasing infection rates, slowing bone loss, and improving cognitive function in schoolchildren. Some studies have also demonstrated protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer, although the evidence is conflicting. Furthermore, various individual nutrients or combinations of nutrients have been used successfully for the prevention and treatment of many other health conditions, including migraines, congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney stones, diabetes, and depression.
Future research should attempt to understand the differences between studies that found positive results and those that did not, in order to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of nutritional supplements. Simply dismissing a vast body of research because the results are conflicting is not useful. The case regarding vitamins and minerals is far from closed, and the public is not well served by shallow interpretations of complex issues.
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