In long term care pharmacy, we see hundreds of patients taking vitamin supplements.  There is a common belief that taking vitamins maintains good health.  In reality, this is not the case.

An article that appeared in the US News and World Report the last week of May discussed a study that appeared recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  The findings were based on a study of trials conducted from January 2012 to October 2017 and found vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C did not help in preventing cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or premature death. Although a 1993 study linked vitamin E to a lower risk of coronary heart disease, this study showed various other vitamins do not benefit patients but do no harm either, according to lead author Dr. David Jenkins.  He said it was surprising that vitamin D, in particular, does nothing for lengthening or shortening one’s lifespan, nor does vitamin C.

The study looked at whether vitamins are good for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.  Of the vitamins analyzed were vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folic acid), C, D and E, as well as beta carotene, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium, according to the study. The term multivitamin “has been used to denote the use of supplements that include most vitamins and minerals.” The study confirmed folic acid and B vitamins “seem to prevent stroke, possibly if you’re deficient,” Jenkins says, referencing a previous study conducted in China. On the other hand, niacin and antioxidants showed a very small effect on mortality from any cause.

For people who are not vitamin deficient, the old adage that one should eat their fruits and vegetables every day has proven true. A healthy diet contains enough vitamins and provides them in the right proportions for good health. Nutritionists say that Vitamin supplements are powerful placebos.  People feel better when they take supplements in the belief that taking more vitamins will improve health. Most evidence shows that they do not.  If a physician recommends supplements or vitamins to a patient who is deficient, they shouldn’t refrain from taking them. But a diet with fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts contains a lot of the nutrition the average person needs, according to Jenkins, and supplements are, more often than not, unnecessary. “I don’t want people to say, ‘I can take supplements instead of a good diet,'” Jenkins says. “Supplements are not the answer for a good diet.”

Guardian Pharmacy of Atlanta has a team of long term care pharmacists and registered nurses who are constantly reviewing medication profiles and can help our patients determine when a medication may be necessary and when it may not be necessary.  If you have questions about our long term care pharmacy services or medication management programs, please call the pharmacy at 770-635-3301