An independent panel convened by the NIH Office of Medical Applications of
Research and the Office of Dietary Supplements assessed the available evidence
on the safety and effectiveness of multivitamin/minerals (MVMs). The panel made
recommendations regarding certain specific supplements but ultimately concluded
that more rigorous scientific research is needed before strong recommendations
can be made regarding MVM use to prevent chronic diseases. The panel’s findings
pertain to the generally healthy population, and do not include pregnant women,
children, or those with disease.
The panel recommended: (not all inclusive)
* Combined use of calcium and vitamin D supplementation for postmenopausal
women to protect bone health.
* That anti-oxidants and zinc be considered for use by non-smoking adults with
early-stage, age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that can cause
* That women of childbearing age take daily folate to prevent neural tube defects
(birth defects of the brain and spinal cord) in infants.
Conversely, the panel found no evidence to recommend beta carotene
supplements, a form of vitamin A, for the general population, and strong evidence
to caution smokers against taking them. Specifically, beta-carotene was linked to
an increase in lung cancer among smokers who took the vitamin regularly. In
looking specifically at MVMs for chronic disease prevention, however, the panel
found that the available data are insufficient to make a firm recommendation for or
against their use in the general population. For full text of the panel’s draft state-
of-the-science statement see http://consensus.nih.gov