Around 14 million Canadians, including children as well as adults, take some form of multivitamins and supplements according to recent estimates, which apparently contributes towards a sale of approximately $370 in a year.
Evidently, the industry of multivitamin supplements is booming in the country.
One of the main reasons for the popularity of multivitamin supplements is undoubtedly its multiple health benefits. Several studies have even stated the possibility of prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer through multivitamin supplementation.
The hypothesis is possibly derived from the several published sources stating the important role played by specific micronutrients in disease prevention. It has been proved that diets rich in fruits and vegetables are in fact associated with a lower risk in terms of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
On the other hand, low vs. high serum concentrations of B-Vitamins, Carotenoids and tocopherols have been found to be associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer.
Hence, it is a balance of several micronutrients and vitamins that was apparently needed and since these could be effectively compressed in a pill form, multivitamin supplements seemed to be a comprehensive solution for nutritional benefits as well as for the correction of dietary deficiencies among adults with poor diet habits.
The Institute of Medicine further suggested that multivitamin supplements were a “potential vehicle” as they contained all the micronutrients that were identified as essential.
Dr. Linda Farber of Yes Wellness further suggests multivitamins to be a powerhouse of essential nutrients that can contribute towards a well-rounded diet, containing rich sources of fruits, vegetables and fibre.
Regardless, conclusive evidence is yet to be obtained in the matter of disease prevention and multivitamins. Several studies are still being conducted to determine the association of multivitamin supplementation with cardiovascular disease outcomes, but so far the benefits have yet to be confirmed.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) conducted reviews and studies in the past, on the efficacy of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer in the general adult population. This included men, women as well as children.
As per an initial statement released by the USPSTF earlier, multivitamin supplements could be recommended to healthy adults coming under the age group of 50 years and above, who did not have any specific nutritional needs. It could not be recommended to children or women who were pregnant or chronically ill and people with specific nutritional deficiencies.
As for its effects on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the USPSTF concluded that the obtained results and evidences were not sufficient to accurately assess the benefits and limitations of multivitamins; both single and paired supplementations in the matter. Although, the USPSTF did recommend against the use of Beta-Carotene and Vitamin E supplements in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Similarly, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC) also states that there is insufficient evidence to support or discourage the use of multivitamin supplementation, particularly Vitamin E, for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, among the general population and among male smokers.
However, the CTFPHC does suggest that there is enough evidence to recommend against the use of routine Vitamin E supplementation for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases among patients with established CVD or are known to have risk factors contributing towards CVD.
Additionally, there is also sufficient evidence to recommend against the use of Vitamin E supplementation for the prevention of lung cancer according to the CTFPHC.
In case of other types of cancers, there has not been sufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of multivitamin supplementation.
Folic acid supplements on the other hand are recommended for women with childbearing potential.
That said, it should be noted that even though there hasn’t been conclusive evidence to support the use of multivitamins in the prevention of CVDs or cancer, they do provide multiple health benefits for regular adults.
Some commonly consumed multivitamin supplements and their benefits are as follows:
- Fibre is known to aid in digestion and also in reducing the amount of cholesterol that the body soaks up from the consumed food. It is naturally found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, but supplements are also a good way to ensure proper intake. Common fibre supplements include methylcellulose, dextrin and calcium polycarbophil. It is important to drink enough liquids when consuming fibre supplements though.
- Sterols and stanols are also known to cut down the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body from the consumed food. They are naturally found in nuts and grains and sometimes they are added to foods like margarines, yogurts and orange juice. Its supplements can be consumed to lower LDL cholesterol for people with high cholesterol.
Coenzyme Q10 also called CoQ10, ubiquinone is a supplement that is known to reduce blood pressure. It can be used alone or in conjunction with medications.