Researcher backs use of vitamin supplements

Published 6 March 2007

One of Australia’s leading researchers in the field of complementary medicine has rejected reports that the use of a daily multivitamin supplement could increase the risk of death.

Professor Stephen Myers, head of Southern Cross University’s Natural Medicine Research Unit, said a study reported in the recent Journal of the American Medical Association had been misinterpreted in the wider media.

Professor Myers said the study was based on people in high risk groups, taking high doses of supplements over long periods.

“Anyone who has done any study in the antioxidant field treats high doses with extreme caution. This is another case where the results of a study have been misinterpreted,” he said.

“We need a more mature medical response, rather than causing worry and concern for people taking a daily multivitamin.

“What people should be concerned about is the obesity epidemic and the reliance that many Australians have on takeaway as a staple part of their diet.”

Professor Myers said the general nutritional recommendation was for people to eat seven serves of fruit and vegetables a day, but many people did not meet that intake.

“There is good evidence for the use of vitamin supplements at the appropriate dosage and as part of a good nutritional mix,” he said.

He said a there was a lot of scientific evidence to support the use of vitamins and minerals in the management and prevention of a range of diseases. A study also reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2002) found that there were potential health benefits associated with multivitamins and recommended that all adults take one multivitamin daily.

This study showed there could be potential net savings of $US1.6 billion in health care if every adult over the age of 65 was given a daily multivitamin.

“Australia has one of the most rigorous and robust approaches to the management of complementary medicine. There are very clear regulations and any company that makes a claim about efficacy must be able to substantiate this claim. Claims themselves are limited to the area of health maintenance and are prohibited from addressing serious disease states,” Professor Myers said.

“Australia is leading the world in setting appropriate pharmaceutical manufacturing standards for complementary medicines. It has been acknowledged by Government that the Australian community has access to complementary medicines that are regulated to the highest standards and that they can have full confidence in the industry and the medicines."

He said Southern Cross University was heavily involved in clinical research to test the efficacy of various complementary medicines.

“One of the studies we have done has shown that women who take a specific women’s multivitamin have a 50 per cent reduction in the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome.

“There is already a body of evidence showing the benefits of complementary medicine and there’s a lot more work being done.”

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, (02) 66593006 0439 680 748.