Before you shell out for another pack of supplements, listen to this: A growing body of research shows that taking multivitamins may not be beneficial to your health and in some cases it may actually be harmful, according to a recent editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

This surprising paper was written by five physicians to sum up the recent studies on multivitamin and supplement use. One study found no evidence that multivitamins had a beneficial effect on mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer. Another study looked at daily multivitamin use in men over 65 and found that it had no effect on cognitive decline. And a third study looked at multivitamin use in men and women who had a myocardial infraction. Surprisingly, the people taking the high-dose multivitamin didn't see a significant difference in recurrent cardiovascular events when compared to people taking a placebo.

So you may not see any major perks from taking vitamins, but is there any harm in popping them once a day? Possibly—particularly with supplements, which are more likely to provide a much higher dose of a single nutrient than you'd normally get by eating a healthy diet. The study authors note that some clinical trials found beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin A supplements may increase mortality. Check out this tough-love conclusion they wrote in the paper:

"Although available evidence does not rule out small benefits or harms or large benefits or harms in a small subgroup of the population, we believe that the case is closed—supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and may even be harmful. These vitamins should be not used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough." 

Most nutritionists agree that the best way to get the vitamins and nutrients you need is by eating them. That way you're taking in several nutrients at once, and you're also less likely to get toxic levels of any one vitamin or mineral. However, if you're truly deficient in something, your doctor may suggest a supplement to help balance you out. But the bottom line is that most healthy adults don't need to take multivitamins. The better tactic is to focus on eating the fruits and veggies that will give you the same health-boosting benefits anyway.

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