Recent studies suggest that, contrary to popular belief, multivitamins don't prevent disease and could actually be doing you harm.
As recently as 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association recommended that "all adults take one multivitamin daily", but more recent studies suggest that popping a pill each day may be having little effect at all or worse, may be a contributor to disease. So is it time to end our love affair with the multivitamin?
A recent review of 63 randomised controlled trials on multis, published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found multivitamins did not prevent cancer or heart disease in most populations (except for developing countries with widespread nutritional deficiencies), Prevention reported.
In another paper, published last year, scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center studied 160,000 postmenopausal women for 10 years and found supplementation had little effect, regardless of the patient's diet. "Multivitamins failed to prevent cancer, heart disease, and all causes of death for all women," lead author Dr Marian Neuhouser said.
"With respect to cancer and heart disease prevention, there is no strong evidence suggesting that multivitamins are protective," Dr Naras Lapsys, accredited practising dietitian The Body Doctor in Bondi, told Health & Wellbeing.
"Some researchers are looking to see if long-term multivitamin use can help towards anti-ageing but the evidence is weak and the studies are inconclusive," he said.
So they don't prevent cancer, but a 2010 study of Swedish women found popping pills may be a contributing factor to developing the disease. Researchers found that women who took multivitamins were 19 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer over a 10-year period than those who didn't (watch the video below for more).
But Dr Lapsys said it's a too early to worry yet.
"I would pay little attention to the murmurings that multivitamin use may be linked to breast cancer. A lot more studies would need to be conducted before any of these types of claims could be made."
So should we ditch the multivitamin?
"In general, the only people that really need to take a multivitamin are either the elderly or people with a specific and diagnosed vitamin deficiency," Dr Lapsys said.
"For most people, a multivitamin is harmless and probably is not needed, but if your diet is restricted to few foods or if you have an unhealthy diet, then a multi is a good and cheap insurance policy to ensure that you are getting your basic vitamin and mineral needs."
Dr Lapsys adds however that though we generally don't require supplementation, there is a growing body of thought that the food chain is becoming overfarmed, making the soil less fertile and produce vitamin-deficient.
"In the US, there is a growing group of doctors, scientists and dieticians that are stating that all people should start to take a multivitamin," he said.
Have your say below: are you still taking a multi?
Related video: Do vitamins cause breast cancer?