Ask the doctor: Understanding the value of multivitamins

Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D.

Q. I'm confused by conflicting reports about the benefits of multivitamins. Should I take one?

A. What a simple, straightforward question! I wish I had a simple, straightforward answer. Here's the simple, uncomplicated part: foods rich in the major vitamins are indisputably good for our health. Most of the vitamins were first discovered because severe deficiency of them produced a particular disease. For example, deficiency of vitamin C caused scurvy. Such severe vitamin-deficiency diseases are rarely seen in the developed countries. However, eating foods rich in vitamins still brings benefits, beyond preventing such diseases. Vitamin-rich foods also reduce our risk of most of the major killers, including heart disease and many types of cancer.

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