Multivitamin Use for Postmenopausal Women
Posted Friday, February 13, 2009

A new study claiming that multivitamin use by postmenopausal women does little to improve their risk of mortality fails to take into account important dietary factors or accurately grasp how dietary supplements and health claims are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the study, which was published in the February 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, postmenopausal women who take multivitamins have the same risk of dying from “most common cancers, cardiovascular disease or of any cause as women who do not take multivitamin supplements.”

“While cohort and observational studies like these can be important, they in no way constitute convincing or conclusive evidence,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association. “This study fails to tell the whole story about the positive effect that vitamins and minerals can have on health. It also does not take into account important factors such as nutrients gained through diet.”

Fabricant said it is “unprincipled” that the authors arbitrarily lumped supplement types into generalized categories that do not represent nutrient intake accurately. And when coupled with the fact that nutrient intake through the diet was not accounted for, Fabricant explained, the study has no means of establishing a baseline for which to draw any comparisons or eliminate bias.

Also troubling was the author’s apparent lack of understanding about how dietary supplements are regulated.

“The authors seem to be confused or unaware of how supplements are regulated and exactly what constitutes a health claim authorized by the FDA,” Fabricant said. “For example, they cite that there is only one supplement, folic acid, worthy of a public health recommendation by way of a health claim. However, even a cursory visit to the FDA’s Web site would have revealed that other nutrients and dietary ingredients, including the very calcium and vitamin D that they studied, also have FDA-authorized health claims.” The FDA was granted the ability to approved or authorize claims explaining a nutrient’s positive health benefits when supported by research as a result of the 1994 regulating dietary supplements.

Taken as whole, the research on dietary supplements in the prevention of chronic diseases, is strong and consistent,” said Fabricant. “To suggest that taking vitamins and minerals with a demonstrated health benefit is unnecessary sends the wrong public health message."

 

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