Forget the recent bad news that vitamins and supplements can supposedly harm, or even kill, you: the truth is that around 130,000 cancer deaths could be avoided each year if every adult started taking a multivitamin, a new review has concluded.

The major clinical trials into the benefits—or otherwise—of vitamins are all seriously flawed, says Prof Balz Frei at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. They usually involve doctors and nurses, who have a better understanding of diet and nutrition in the first place.

But it’s different story for the average American, the vast majority of whom don’t get the required amounts of vitamin D and E to maintain basic health. Around 40 per cent don’t get enough vitamin C, and half are deficient in vitamin A, calcium and magnesium.

The lack is even more acute among smokers, the obese, the elderly and those who are already sick.

This was borne out by the largest trial into vitamin use which concluded that 130,000 cancer deaths could be avoided in the US every year if every adult took a multivitamin every day.

(Source: Nutrients, 2013; 5: 5161).