Image courtesy of Prevention

A recent study of more than 161,000 postmenopausal women discovered that those who took multivitamins (more than 40% of participants) were no less likely to develop heart disease or cancer than those who didn't. We asked three of our advisors if the 69% of Prevention readers who take them should continue.

Absolutely

"First, this study followed women for only 8 years, and many cancers can take 15-plus years to develop, so there may be a benefit we're not seeing yet. We still need ideal levels of nutrients for other health reasons: B vitamins cut the risk of macular degeneration, zinc is necessary for immune function and healing, and magnesium and phosphorus boost bone health, to name a few. Plus, I think taking a multi can lead to an overall healthier lifestyle--a little daily reminder to take care of yourself, eat whole foods, and exercise more often."

--Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, the author of Body for Life for Women and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland

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Yes

"Diet and lifestyle are central to reducing the risks of heart disease and cancer, but multis can be insurance against nutritional gaps in our diet. Also keep in mind that this study lumped every multivitamin in the same boat, but different brands may contain varying amounts and types of ingredients, so there's no way to know that all women were taking the best-quality vitamins. And disease prevention is a lifelong endeavor. Starting multivitamins when you're older may not offer the same protection as taking them throughout your life."

--Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Program in Integrative Medicine and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona

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Maybe

"If you eat a well-balanced diet--lots of fruits and veggies, protein and whole grains, and especially fortified foods like cereal and juice--you may not need one. We know that too much of certain vitamins, such as E and A, can be harmful, so you need to be careful of the dosage based on what you're already eating."

--David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Prevention Research Center and an associate adjunct professor in public health at Yale University School of Medicine

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