This is a story reporting on the results of study that looked to see whether regular consumption of multivitamins had any impact on how likely it was that a woman would have a heart attack in the future. The study found and the story reported that multivitamin use by women who already have heart disease did not appear to be associated with the likelihood they would have a heart attack. On the other hand, multivitamin use by women who did not have heart disease appeared to be associated with lowered risk of having a heart attack. However, the claims about potential benefits in the headline and lead are undercut by an author of the study who is quoted at the end of the piece as saying it is really still an open question as to whether multivitamins have any benefit. The story includes some statistics that are helpful, but also others that may confuse readers
Multivitamins and the controversy over whether to take them for prevention of heart disease or cancer is important because it affects a large segment of the population and there is potential for harm.
There was no insight about the costs of various multivitamin formulations.
The story provided the numbers so that readers could calculate the absolute reduction in heart attacks in the group of women taking multivitamins who did not have heart disease (with multivit = 2.6%; without multivit = 3.4%). However, it is unfortunate that instead of choosing to report that there was a1% reduction in heart attacks, a decision was made to report it as a 27% reduction in heart attacks. While a 27% difference sounds pretty exciting, it is a bit misleading.
There was no discussion of possible harms associated with the use of multivitamins. In an era where so very many foods are fortified with various nutrients, the consumption of yet another source of micronutrients may not be without potential down sides.
The story failed to adequately explain about the type of study conducted and the quality of the evidence.
Since the study was observational and, as the story noted, it could not rule out other factors in the women’s lives that might explain the results, it is inappropriate to tell readers that it provided evidence that vitamins can boost health or cut risk. The study had limitations, including a lack of information about the types and quantities of vitamins the women were taking as well as the potential that other health behaviors may have been responsible for the differences seen.
The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.
No independent sources appear to have been used to put the current study results in context. Comments from experts in the field could have shed valuable light on this topic.
There was no discussion of the impact of other lifestyle choices beyond consumption of multivitamins that have demonstrate effect on reducing the risk of heart attack. Adopting other risk reduction behaviors is a more powerful way to reduce risk of heart attack.
The availability of multivitamins is assumed. However, the researchers did not collect deatiled data about which vitamins the women took or in what amounts, so it is unknown whether the results truly reflect on typical multivitamins or possibly other products.
The story accurately conveyed the lack of novelty of this treatment studied.
The story includes quotes from one of the researchers.