Did you hear the breaking news last night—that multivitamins may shorten your life? Here’s how junk science from the AMA set off the media frenzy.
Bloomberg phrased it this way: “Multivitamins and some dietary supplements, used regularly by an estimated 234 million US adults, may do more harm than good, according to a study that tied their use to higher death rates among older women.” The study’s authors outrageously concluded, “We see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements.”
The study, published in the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Archives of Internal Medicine, assessed the use of vitamin and mineral supplements in nearly 39,000 women whose average age was 62. The researchers asked the women to fill out three surveys, the first in 1986, the second in 1997, and the last in 2004, reporting what supplements they took and what foods they ate, and answering a few questions about their health.
That’s right, all the data was self-reported by the study subjects only three times over the course of the 19-year-long study. To say the data is “unreliable” would be a generous description. This kind of “data” has no place in a valid scientific study.
Then the researchers looked at how many of the women had died by 2008. They reported that the number of deaths were somewhat higher for women who took copper, a little bit lower for women who took calcium, but about average for most of the women.
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