Do Multivitamins Do Women More Harm Than Good?
Most studies have not shown a consistent benefit of taking multivitamin/mineral supplements for preventing chronic diseases. Furthermore, a recent study found that women who took multivitamins regularly were actually more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those that didn’t take multivitamins.1 Could women really be endangering their health by taking multivitamins? Many researchers think that it could be the folic acid found in most multivitamins, and I agree. My review of all the studies that address this critically important issue supplied overwhelming evidence resulting in my concern. Synthetic folic acid is not the same as natural food folate, and it has been linked to several cancers, in addition to breast cancer.2-4 Plus, greens and beans contain plenty of folate, so a deficiency is not a concern for a person eating healthfully. I strongly recommend women do not take any supplement that contains folic acid, and get real folate from real food.
Does this mean that women should stop taking multivitamins?
Most multivitamins contain a combination of helpful and potentially harmful ingredients, and often they contain excessive amounts of certain nutrients that can also be detrimental to one’s health. However, it is important to have optimal intake of all critical nutrients because even a borderline insufficiency can compromise your long-term health. This is why I designed my own line of multivitamins — to provide an alternative for health-conscious individuals that only contains the helpful elements, and in appropriate quantities that complement a healthful diet. Remember both too little and too much of certain nutrients can be sub-optimal.
A Nutritarian diet of colorful natural plant foods provides us with vitamins, minerals and thousands of beneficial phytochemicals. However, there are some micronutrients that are sub-optimal even in an excellent diet, and these deficiencies can undermine your health. These are ingredients I emphasize in my line of multivitamins, to fill in the nutritional gaps present even in healthful diets:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2
Read more about what to look for in a multivitamin
On the other hand, some common ingredients in multivitamins may be harmful in isolated supplement form. To assure safety I have chosen to exclude these ingredients from my supplements:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Folic acid
Read more about potentially harmful ingredients in multivitamins
1. Prentice RL: Clinical trials and observational studies to assess the chronic disease benefits and risks of multivitamin-multimineral supplements. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:308S-313S.
2. Charles D, Ness AR, Campbell D, et al: Taking folate in pregnancy and risk of maternal breast cancer. BMJ 2004;329:1375-1376.
3. Fife J, Raniga S, Hider PN, et al: Folic Acid Supplementation and Colorectal Cancer Risk; A Meta-analysis. Colorectal Dis 2009.
4. Figueiredo JC, Grau MV, Haile RW, et al: Folic acid and risk of prostate cancer: results from a randomized clinical trial. J Natl Cancer Inst 2009;101:432-435.