Multivitamin study finds 'striking' reason to take daily supplements

Whether there's any value in taking vitamin and mineral supplements has long been a point of contention. Some studies have found that in healthy people who don't have any deficiencies, taking these supplements can range from pointless to even actively harmful; other research has found that while the vitamins are beneficial, those benefits are only experienced if the vitamins come from actual food. A new study deviates from this body of research, finding one good reason to take a daily multivitamin and mineral tablet.

A multivitamin supplement usually contains a variety of key vitamins, as well as select minerals that are necessary for good health, such as magnesium and zinc. According to the new study from Oregon State University, the practice of taking a daily vitamin supplement that contains minerals, including zinc and a large dose of vitamin C, may help reduce the length and severity of colds and similar illnesses.

In the case of this study, the multivitamin and mineral supplement given to participants featured the following ingredients and their respective quantities:

- 700μg of vitamin A

- 400iu of vitamin D

- 45mg of vitamin E

- 6.6mg of vitamin B6

- 400mg of folate

- 9.6μg of vitamin B12

- 1,000mg of vitamin C

- 5mg of iron

- 0.9mg of copper

- 10mg of zinc

- 110μg of selenium

The research focused on older adults, meaning people who were ages 55 to 75 years old, each of whom was healthy at the start of the study. Participants given the multivitamin showed increases in zinc and vitamin C levels in the blood, and these same people were found to experience 'illness symptoms' that were shorter and less severe than the participants in the placebo group.

On average, the multivitamin group experienced three days of sickness compared to an average of six days in the placebo group. The study's principal investigator Adrian Gombart called the differences 'striking,' saying:

While the study was limited to self-reported illness data and we did not design the study to answer this question, the observed differences suggest that additional larger studies designed for these outcomes are warranted – and, frankly, overdue. Supplementation was associated with significantly increased circulating levels of zinc and vitamin C, and with illness symptoms that were less severe and shorter lasting. This supports findings that stretch back decades, even to the days of Linus Pauling's work with vitamin C.

Of course, it is important to check with one's doctor before taking a supplement to ensure it won't be problematic on a case-by-case basis.