Multivitamins Linked to Lower Cancer Levels in Men

Still think multivitamins are useless? A new study shows that taking multivitamins can reduce one's risk of cancer.

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Multivitamins make Dr. Oz's must-have supplements list for many reasons. A multi ensures that you get all the essential vitamins and minerals recommended for each day, something many of us miss through diet alone. The typical multivitamin contains about 10 vitamins and 10 minerals, including vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, and minerals such as potassium and zinc. Now, a breaking new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that it may reduce one's risk of cancer.

Researchers followed nearly 15,000 male US physicians over the age of 50 over 11 years. Compared with those who took a placebo pill, men who took a daily multivitamin had a modest but significant reduction in developing cancer. Of the men who took the multivitamin, 17 men per 1000 developed cancer, compared to the 18.3 men per 1000 in the placebo group. However, when analyzing the data, the researchers found that the significant reduction in cancer occured the strongest among the 1312  men who had a past history of cancer before the study.


The authors claim that this data from the National Physicians Health Study II (PHSII) represents "the only large-scale, randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial testing the long-term effects of a common multivitamin in the prevention in chronic disease." The researchers also assessed side effects of multivitamins and found a slightly higher number of rashes, but no difference in the number of gastrointestinal symptoms, like nausea or vomiting.

However, as the researchers analyzed different types of cancers separately, they found no difference in specific cancers, including prostate cancer or colorectal cancer. They also failed to find a significant difference in cancer mortality.

This study comes out at a time when many physicians disagree about the overall benefits of multivitamins. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans didn't officially recommend multivitamins due to a lack of evidence suggesting that multivitamins "[prevent] chronic disease." Other studies including the Women's Health Initiative and the Cancer Prevention Study have failed to connect multivitamins with lower rates of breast cancer and cancer, respectively.

However, this most recent study further fuels the need for more research on the effects and benefits of long-term multivitamin use. Until then, the choice of taking multivitamins is up to you.

When purchasing your multivitamins, look for bottles labeled 100% Daily Value (DV). In addition, avoid mega doses, such as supplements containing 500% DV of any vitamin or mineral, taking into account that you’ll also be absorbing them from the foods you eat. Make sure your multi contains iodine, a mineral that is sometimes omitted by certain manufacturers and is important for your heart, thyroid, brain and other vital organs.

Be sure to split your multivitamin into two doses. Take half in the morning, and half at night since your body can only absorb so many nutrients at a given time. Also, taking too many vitamins, especially vitamin A and vitamin E which have side effects, can be bad for you, so don’t take more than the recommended dose or take additional vitamin supplements if you are already taking a multivitamin. To save money, you can also benefit from buying your multivitamins in bulk. 

Make sure you also get the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, either through supplements or foods like walnuts, salmon, tuna, olive oil and avocados.

And remember that any supplement is inferior to getting your vitamins, minerals and nutrients through a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and other whole foods.