Simple, over-the-counter multivitamin supplements containing vitamins B, C, and E taken daily can delay the progression of human immunodeficiency virus disease and delay the need to start antiretroviral therapy in infected women, according to researchers from Harvard University and Tanzania.
In a study that followed just over 1,000 women for approximately 6 years, researchers found that 24.7% of the women who took daily multivitamin supplements progressed to World Health Organization (WHO)-defined stage 4 disease or died, versus 31.1% of those who took placebo. In addition, the women who took the multivitamins had significantly improved CD4+ and CD8+ counts and significantly lower viral loads.
Adding vitamin A to the multivitamin regimen, however, actually reduced the benefits gained, and the benefits of vitamin A alone were even smaller and, for the most part, not significantly different from placebo.
While it's possible that the benefits of vitamin supplementation in Tanzanian women may not fully translate to an American populationwhose diets are more nutrient denseindependent research has shown that higher doses of vitamins B, C, and E also slow down HIV progression in American patients.
Fawzi WW, Msamanga GI, Spiegelman D, et al. A randomized trial of multivitamin supplements and HIV disease progression and mortality. N Engl J Med. 2004;351:23-32.