Vitamin debate

A recent study concluding that multivitamins and other supplements are not effective in preventing chronic disease or death.

This news may give pause to those people who use supplements and are looking to remain healthy and live longer lives.

But Dr. Christopher Still, director of Geisinger Medical Center’s Center for Nutrition and Weight Management, said it should not be interpreted to mean that some vitamins aren’t worth taking.

“Specific vitamins for individual patients are very good,” said Still, who was responding to two new studies and a recently published report in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” regarding vitamins.

The conclusion from the reports indicated that most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death and their use is not justified for those purposes.

He agreed that some supplements simply aren’t worth the money consumers pay for them.

“A lot of these are just multi-water … they are water soluble, meaning they are going to be voided out in our urine,” he said.

Still, there’s no reason for many people not to take some supplements on the market.

“A one-a-day multi-vitamin is Ok, especially if you don’t have a balanced diet,” he said.

Other vitamins are just fine too.

A calcium supplement, for example, is good for bone density.

“Folic acid is actually great for pregnancies,” he said.

Studies show that taking folic acid both before and during early pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects.

For those people who eat healthy and get regular exercise, a multivitamin may not even be necessary, Still noted.

And, he concurred with studies that show there is no harm in multivitamins.

Previous studies on multivitamins have shown some benefits.

One study suggested taking multivitamins led to an 8 percent decline in cancer risk in men older than 50.

Yet another earlier study revealed the possibility of multivitamins lowering the risk of cataracts.

But Still warned against anyone using a multivitamin in hopes of warding off cancer or chronic diseases.

And some vitamins earlier thought to have had beneficial effects, actually can be harmful, according to Still

The risk of lung cancer, Still noted, actually seems to increase for certain people who take beta-carotene, including both smokers and former smokers.

Again, the effectiveness of vitamins and supplements really depends on the individual.

“Patients should talk to their physicians about what is best,” Still said.