Q. I'm confused by conflicting reports about the benefits of multivitamins. Should I take one?
A. What a simple, straightforward question! I wish I had a simple, straightforward answer. Here's the simple, uncomplicated part: foods rich in the major vitamins are indisputably good for our health. Most of the vitamins were first discovered because severe deficiency of them produced a particular disease. For example, deficiency of vitamin C caused scurvy. Such severe vitamin-deficiency diseases are rarely seen in the developed countries. However, eating foods rich in vitamins still brings benefits, beyond preventing such diseases. Vitamin-rich foods also reduce our risk of most of the major killers, including heart disease and many types of cancer.
osteoporosis). There are some people who may benefit from a daily multivitamin: people who suffer from conditions of the stomach and intestine that make it harder to digest vitamins in foods, people who abuse alcohol, and people who eat a vegan diet (which is low in some vitamins). Finally, there are people who are born with conditions that can cause a specific vitamin deficiency. I am one of them. I inherited a condition that causes low levels of certain B vitamins in my body, so I take a B vitamin supplement daily (not a multivitamin pill).
âAnthony L. Komaroff, M.D.
Editor in Chief
Harvard Health Letter