New research has linked multivitamin use with reduced risks of certain common, deadly diseases, particularly in people who don't eat healthy diets. In March 2002, an analysis from the long-running Nurses' Health Study scrutinized women at increased colon-cancer risk. Those who consumed the most of the B-vitamin folate from food had an average of 52 percent less risk of developing the cancer than those consuming the least. But a multivitamin containing folic acid (synthetic folate) was nearly as effective: Women who took it for at least five years reduced their risk by 45 percent.
Multivitamins may help shield the heart, too. Two out of four large observational studies published in the last few years found modest reductions in coronary risk among multivitamin users; the third found a small reduction in those who took multivitamins plus additional antioxidants. One possible reason for all those findings: B vitamins and antioxidants may help keep the arteries clear.
Note that none of the multivitamin findings has been proved. Indeed, our medical consultants say that most healthy people who eat a varied, nutritious diet don't need multivitamin supplements. However, certain groups of people may benefit from consuming either fortified foods, specific supplements, or multivitamins:
–People over age 50. They often have trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 from food. And they may have a low vitamin- D level, especially if they seldom eat fatty fish, drink milk, or get out in the sun.
–Pregnant or breast-feeding women.
–Dieters and vegetarians.
–People with gastrointestinal disorders that inhibit digestion or absorption.
–People with a chronic illness such as cancer or AIDS.
?Source: Consumer Reports (online at www.consumerreports.org)