Q. Is it true that taking vitamins is a waste of money since they do not improve our health?
A. An editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Dec. 17, 2013) titled “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements” makes this argument. We don’t entirely agree, however.
Some studies have shown that certain vitamins can improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of cancer or lower the chance of getting cataracts (JAMA, Jan. 1, 2014 & Nov. 14, 2012; Ophthalmology, Feb. 2014).
In addition, millions of people take drugs that may interfere with nutrient absorption. Some people may not realize that popular proton pump inhibitors such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec), used for GERD or even for heartburn, can reduce absorption of vitamin B12 and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. In such cases, vitamins and minerals can be essential.
You can get a different perspective on this topic from our discussion with Tieraona Low Dog, MD, who is one of the country’s leading experts on the evidence base for supplements. You may also be interested in our article on the use of vitamin E against cognitive decline. Research has also shown that omega-3 fats, whether from fish or fish oil, may be helpful in maintaining the brain.