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ATLANTA, GEORGIA. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just released a major study aimed at determining the benefits of vitamin supplementation. The study involved over one million adult Americans (450,000 men and 610,000 women) over the age of 30 years in 1982 when the study commenced. The participants completed questionnaires regarding their diet, lifestyle, educational background, smoking status, etc. and were also specifically asked about their use of multivitamins alone, vitamin A, vitamin C or vitamin E on their own or a combination of multivitamins and vitamins A, C or E (antioxidants). By 1989 85,000 of the study participants had died; 22,800 (27 per cent) from ischemic heart disease, 5460 (6 per cent) from stroke, 29,800 (35 per cent) from cancer, and 27,000 (32 per cent) from other causes.

Thirty per cent of the men and 37 per cent of the women participating in the study reported the use of multivitamins alone or in combination with vitamins A, C or E in the month preceding the questionnaire. Twelve per cent of men and 13 per cent of women had used vitamins A, C or E without a multivitamin and 58 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women had used no vitamins at all. Vitamin users tended to be more educated, less overweight, and more likely to eat vegetables and drink wine or liquor.

A detailed examination of the data collected in the study revealed that men and women who took both multivitamins and extra vitamins A, C or E (no distinction was made between these antioxidant vitamins) had a 15 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease or stroke than did people who took only multivitamins or no vitamins at all. Non-smoking men who took both multivitamins and antioxidants reduced their risk of dying from cancer by 10 to 14 per cent while male smokers who used vitamins with or without vitamins A, C or E increased their cancer risk by about 15 per cent. No similar relationship was observed for women. The researchers conclude that the use of multivitamins and antioxidants (vitamins C, E or A) in combination may reduce mortality from heart disease and stroke, but caution that some vitamin supplements may adversely affect male smokers.
Watkins, Margaret, L., et al. Multivitamin use and mortality in a large prospective study. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 152, July 15, 2000, pp. 149-62

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