Take Your Vitamin

Nope, a Multivitamin Will Not Help You Live Longer

Dietary supplements generated U.S. sales of $177 billion in 2023 and multivitamins are the single most common dietary supplement that people actually take. According to NIH, about one in three of us take one. The use of them goes up with age, perhaps as a response as mortality comes into sharper view. But a new study in JAMA Network Open suggests this is an unnecessary ritual. A multivitamin will not help you live longer.

Three Large Prospective Datasets

The authors of this large prospective cohort study drew their data from three data sources to assemble their cohort of 390,124 U.S. adults. They did their best to account for confounding and the possibility of reverse causality. Perhaps people have a tendency to take a multivitamin when they feel their health at risk. Taking all this into account, they found no benefit for longevity:

“In this cohort study of 390 124 generally healthy US adults with more than 20 years of follow-up, daily MV use was not associated with a mortality benefit. In contrast, we found that daily MV use vs nonuse was associated with 4% higher mortality risk.

“However, we cannot preclude the possibility that daily MV use may be associated with other health outcomes related to aging.”

The Power of Placebo

This is likely not a big surprise to anyone. Doctors and health experts have long been clear that a multivitamin will do nothing to help us live longer. So why do we persist?

Simply stated, it is the power of a placebo that fuels this habit. Just as we tell ourselves that we can maintain our health and fitness with healthy food and exercise rituals, taking that multivitamin gives an outsized sense of control over our own mortality. This is not a bad thing, even if it involves a little magical thinking. It feels good.

Even if the multivitamin habit continues to fade, people will likely find other rituals to tell themselves, “I am the master of my fate.”

Click here for the study and here for the invited commentary that goes with it.

Take Your Vitamin, photograph by Ted Kyle / ConscienHealth

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July 5, 2024

One Response to “Nope, a Multivitamin Will Not Help You Live Longer”

  1. July 06, 2024 at 9:05 am, Michael Jones said:

    Certainly not surprising, but have we really been recommending vitamins to prolong life? Is that the only potential benefit? I actually have never been a big advocate for MVIs, but do we have any evidence that they might improve health risks and quality of life, particularly for those whose nutrition is far below optimal?