According to Australia’s Complementary Healthcare Council, 2014 will put an ever-increasing burden of chronic health problems on the country’s healthcare system. As a result, the body is urging the government increase prominence for complementary medicines on the political agenda.
“More and more people are using complementary medicines to care for their general health and wellbeing,” said Carl Gibson, CHC’s chief executive.
“With the growing use and acceptance of complementary medicines it is important that the Australian Government provides more support for clinical and laboratory research into complementary medicines.
“Many people take multivitamins because they know they don’t always eat as well as they should, with the typical Australian diet falling well short of the recommended daily nutrient requirements.”
According to the Australian Bureau of statistics, less than one in 10 adults reports an adequate intake of fruit and vegetables.
Prof. Alan Bensoussan, director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine in Australia, agreed, saying: “The prevalence of suboptimal or ‘poor’ nutrition is more widespread in the Australian community than people realise, meaning more people are at risk of frank deficiency.”
A recently published study in the The Annals of Internal Medicine queried the role of multivitamins in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease in healthy individuals, and concluded that the evidence is currently insufficient to assess the value of multivitamins in the prevention of these diseases.
The study only looked at healthy subjects who did not have identified nutritional deficiencies. The findings of the study do not apply to children, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, or individuals who are chronically ill, hospitalised, or have a clinical nutritional deficiency, meaning that dietary intake is a vital yet uninvestigated aspect of this study on the effect of multivitamins.
“The inconclusive findings of the study, and the lack of focus on those individuals with identified nutritional deficiencies, highlights the urgent need for more research into complementary medicines,” said Mr Gibson.
“Despite a formidable reputation as leaders in the field, we have an under-utilised resource in our complementary medicine researches and academics in Australia. More research is needed to establish the role of multivitamins in addressing chronic health problems, and for this to happen Government support is essential.”