Do You Recommend Vitamins to Your Patients?

August 22, 2018

Despite a lack of proven benefit and an association with harm in some studies, the obsession with vitamins and dietary supplements continues to fuel a thriving industry. In the United States alone, the supplement market was almost $30 billion in 2015.

Yet, a review article titled "Supplemental Vitamins and Minerals for CVD Prevention and Treatment" found no benefit for supplementation with multivitamins, vitamins C and D, calcium, β-carotene, or selenium. Furthermore, some antioxidant combinations (at least two of vitamins A, C, and E; β-carotene; selenium; and zinc) and extended-release niacin were associated with an increase in all-cause mortality. And a more recent meta-analysis in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes concluded that multivitamins do not prevent cardiovascular disease.

Despite this lack of evidence that supplements have merit — and in some cases, evidence to suggest that supplementation may do harm — clinicians may be just as likely as the general public to take them. Although there are few data on the topic, the "Life...supplemented" Healthcare Professionals Impact Study found that of the more than 1000 clinicians surveyed, 72% of physicians and 89% of nurses said they used dietary supplements regularly, occasionally, or seasonally. When asked whether they "ever recommend dietary supplements" to their patients, 79% of physicians and 82% of nurses said they did.

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