Research published online Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that taking a daily multivitamin offers no more protection against heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease than taking a daily placebo pill.


The study was based on the Physicians' Health Study II (PHS II), a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that began in 1997 and ran through June 1, 2011. It included 14,641 male physicians (754 with a history of cardiovascular disease) who were 50 years or older at the start of the study. About half (7,317) of the men were randomly assigned to take a daily Centrum multivitamin; the other half (7,324) were assigned to take placebo pills.

After an average of 11.2 years, the researchers found multivitamin use had no effect on the incidence of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death. That held true among the men who had entered the study with a history of cardiovascular disease.

The authors acknowledge that multivitamin use may be helpful in correcting some people’s nutrition deficiencies. They also note that because this study — the largest to look at the relationship between multivitamin use and cardiovascular outcomes — included only older men, its findings might not apply to other populations.

This study comes close on the heels of another based on the PHS II that looked at the relationship between multivitamin use and cancer risk. As I reported in October, that study found that among older men, daily multivitamin use reduced the risk of being diagnosed with cancer but did not affect the ultimate risk of dying of cancer during the study period. In addition to getting plenty of exercise and taking other steps to stay healthy, I continue to pop my daily vitamin supplement as a kind of safety net for those days when my diet isn’t all it should be. But I’m not counting on it to protect me from cancer or heart disease. How about you?