Do Vitamins Make You Life Longer?

Do Vitamins Make You Life Longer?

The article from the Archives of Internal Medicine, October 10, 2011, entitled Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Use in Relation to All-Cause Mortality in the Iowa Women’s Health Study by Goran Bjelakovic, MD, DMSc; Christian Gluud, MD, DMSc revealed that the mortality rate in multivitamin takers was increased.

 This current study sought to evaluate the link between supplement use and total mortality rate, using data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study. A total of 38,772 older women were included in the analysis. Women were aged between 55 to 69 years, with an average of 61.6 years at the beginning of the study in 1986. Self-reported data on vitamin supplement use were collected in 1986, 1997, and 2004.

A total of 15,594 deaths were reported through December 31, 2008, representing about 40% of the initial participants. The use of multivitamins overall was associated with 2.4% increased absolute risk for death (hazard ratio, 1.06; 95% confidence interval, 1.02 – 1.10). Self-reported use of dietary supplements increased substantially between 1986 and 2004. In addition, supplement users had a higher educational level, were more physically active, and were more likely to use estrogen replacement therapy.

Vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and zinc were associated with about a 3% to 6% increased risk for death, whereas copper was associated with an 18.0% increased risk for total mortality when compared with corresponding nonuse.

In contrast, use of calcium was inversely related to risk for death (hazard ratio, 0.91; 95% confidence interval, 0.88 – 0.94; absolute risk reduction, 3.8%).

Was the study flawed?


So far I have seen nothing to say whether these vitamins were synthetic or whole food vitamins. The difference can be as clear as black and white in my opinion. Time will tell. Life Extension Foundation and other natural proponents of food derived nutrients will pursue this with great vigor.


My guess is that this recent article will be like the great study called the Women’s Health Initiative in which only synthetic hormones were used demonstrating that hormonal therapy was for the most part harmful. Not one bioidentical hormone was used! In my opinion, this study did more harm to women than any other study that I know of. It denied many menopausal patients of hormonal replacement therapy. Many doctors simply stopped all hormonal therapy for their patients because of the study.


I have been on the soap-box for whole food vitamins for years because it’s logical. We have millions of years eating food and not synthetics or isolated extracts from food making the different nutrients imbalanced. A typical example is Vitamin C, often alluded to as ascorbic acid. The latter is isolated from the Vitamin C complex and is even incapable of treating Scurvy, which is a deficiency of Vitamin C. Scurvy is treated with foods high in Vitamin C content, such as lime juice. Additionally, Beriberi, a deficiency in Vitamin B1 cannot be treated successfully with Vitamin B1 (thiamine). However, it can be properly treated with rice bran, however, another food.


It will be interesting to see what kind of vitamins and nutrients were used in the study. My guess is that zero whole food vitamins were used. This would simply mean that synthetic vitamins cause an increased mortality rate. It has no meaning for those people who take food derived vitamins. But, time will tell. I can hardly wait.


E. Ronald Finger, MD, FACS

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E. Ronald Finger MD