Multivitamins Don't Protect Seniors

Supplements didn't cut number of doctor visits, infections, study finds

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THURSDAY, Aug. 4, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- In an effort to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can lead to poor immunity and an increased risk of infections, about one-quarter of older people in the United Kingdom take nutritional supplements. Yet, a new study finds that among older people who live at home, multivitamin and mineral supplements do not appear to protect against infections.

The Aberdeen University study included 910 men and women aged 65 and older who didn't take vitamins or minerals before the study. The volunteers were divided into two groups -- one group took a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement for a year, while the other group was given a placebo.

During that year, the volunteers kept a record of how often they contacted a primary care doctor about an infection, how many days they had infections, and their quality of life. The study also factored in the participants' antibiotic prescriptions and hospital admissions.

The use of multivitamin and mineral supplements did not seem to affect the number of contacts with primary care doctors, days with infection or overall quality of life, the investigators found. The results, published in this week's issue of the British Medical Journal, are consistent with the findings of several previous studies.

The authors concluded that regular use of commonly available multivitamin and mineral supplements by older people living at home is not likely to reduce their number of infections or associated use of health services.

Further research is needed to determine whether these supplements benefit older people who live in care institutions.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about multivitamins.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, Aug. 3, 2005

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