Purpose of review
Vitamin supplements are used by large numbers of older adults. Although vitamins serve several functions in the body, the benefits or harm of routine supplementation are far from clear. Data from studies over the last decade are reviewed to enable an understanding.
Summarized data from studies conducted over the last few years, pertinent to the use of vitamins, as multivitamin combinations and as individual vitamins specifically A, D, E, C, and the B group, are presented. This review targets the benefits and harm of multivitamins when used to lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, visual disorders (e.g., cataracts and age-related macular degeneration), and bone disease. The effects of vitamins on total mortality are discussed. In addition, isolated or multiple vitamin deficiencies, their predisposing settings and manifestations from mild-to-life-threatening illness are discussed.
Data from studies demonstrate considerable variations, most confirming little to no benefit following supplementation in healthy adults. However, clear roles exist for vitamin supplementation in states of deficiency and in subgroups of older adults at high risk for deficiency of specific or multiple vitamins. In these settings, vitamin supplements help prevent or correct deficiency and related manifestations.