Taking a Multivitamin for Men: Can it Lower Cancer Rates?

taking a multivitamin for men
I am a lifestyle guy so supplements do NOT replace a good quality diet. But, given the problems with food quality, taking a multivitamin for men, may be a good idea.
When it comes to supplements, every recommendation I have has to take into account benefit, risk and cost.  There are some supplements that are very high value for the benefits.  Fish oils and vitamin D fall into this category.  For the money spent for these, the benefits cut across a very large range of chronic diseases.  Clearly, taking a multivitamin should be included
in this high-value group.
There has been research over the years supporting the benefits of taking a simple multivitamin.  I have reviewed these in detail in a prior blog post, but here’s a short list:
  1. May help with depressive symptoms in the elderly.
  2. May improve mood and behavior in adolescents.
  3. Taking a multivitamin may lower the risk of having a heart attack.
  4. Taking a multivitamin may lower the risk of disability in elderly women.
  5. Multivitamins can preserve telomere length–a strong marker of how long your cells may live.

All of this brings us to this particular article.  Researchers looked at male participants of the Physicians Health Study II who had taken the prescribed multivitamin for men in the trial.  They specifically looked at whether taking a multivitamin for men could lower the risk of cancer.  Here’s what they found:

  • Taking a multivitamin for men had a reduction in overall risk of cancer by 8%. (Tweet this)

 8%.  I’m sure no one is jumping up and down with joy at this number.  But before you toss out your multivitamin, you need to know a few things.

First, 8% is still a very real number.  It’s not like we’re talking about a massive overhaul of your lifestyle.  It’s a multivitamin.  That sounds like a pretty big payoff for spending maybe a mere 3 seconds several times per day.

Second, the multivitamin used in the study was the Centrum Silver (provided by the Pfizer drug company).  Drug companies should stick with medications designed to interfere with the way the body works.  Whenever they delve into lifestyle or supplementation they seem to screw it up.  Let’s review Centrum Silver compared to what I recommend in a good quality multivitamin:

  1. Centrum is a “one per day” multivitamin.  The entire “one a day” concept just doesn’t work.  How many meals do you need in a day?  One?  Of course not.  Why should this be any different with your multivitamin?
  2. You should avoid cheaper version of minerals like the oxides and carbonates.  That’s pretty much the only forms used in Centrum.
  3. Crospovidone is used.  AKA polyvinylpyrrolidone.  Seriously?  In a HEALTH related tablet?
  4. Do you really care what color your multivitamin is?  Drug companies are so used to adding coal tar dyes (the reason they are numbered is because they had to be approved by the FDA) so that grandma remembers to take the purple pill and the orange one.
  5. Sodium benzoate is a preservative, usually used in liquids.  Last I checked, this was a tablet.
  6. Contains hydrogenated palm oil.  While this is a small amount, there is no safe level of trans fats found in hydrogenated oils.
  7. The form of B12 used in cyanocobalamin.  This form should be avoided and the methyl and hydroxy forms should be used.
  8. Polyethylene Glycol, Polyvinyl Alcohol are present.  Sounds consistent with good health, right?

There are other reasons, but hopefully by now you should understand that this is NOT something we should really be willingly be putting into our bodies.  It is clearly loaded with chemicals we do not need.

And yet, despite this, the taking a multivitamin for men that is of this low quality still managed a respectable 8% reduction in total cancer risk.  What kind of numbers do you think we might see with a higher quality multivitamin?  In our office we are proud to carry Biotic’s brand and Pure Encapsulations.

Given the results of this study, should doctors begin to more strongly recommend taking a multivitamin for men to patients?  (And female patients as well…?)


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.