Medicine

Popular vitamin, mineral pills provide no health benefit

Popular vitamin, mineral pills provide no health benefit

Dietary supplement industry associations are pushing back on negative conclusions drawn from a new meta-analysis on efficacy of vitamins and minerals for preventing cardiovascular disease.

"We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume", said Dr. David Jenkins*, the study's lead author. Researchers found that acid supplements may reduce both cardiovascular disease and stroke risk.

Furthermore, antioxidant supplements and niacin were associated with a smaller increase in the risk of mortality.

His team reviewed supplement data that included vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 (folic acid), C, D and E; beta-carotene; calcium; iron; zinc; magnesium; and selenium.

As millions of people across the world become more health-conscious, sales of vitamin and mineral supplements have skyrocketed, rising from $50bn in 2007 to more than $100bn in 2017.

Researchers found that only folic acid or B-vitamins with folic acid can reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The Canadian and French scientists say the best way to look after the heart is by getting vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet which includes lots of fruit and vegetables. The participants were people who took better care of their health, so the extra supplements did nothing to improve their lives.

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Taking vitamin supplements could be doing more harm than good. "In Australia, supplement use is very common with nearly 30% of Australians reporting consuming supplements in our latest Australian Health Survey (2011-12, Australian Bureau of Statistics)", said Dr Carly Moores, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Flinders University.

The study was published in the latest issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology released this week (29th May 2018). The research reflected that there was no actual harm in taking these supplements either.

The research mirrors a 2013 study that also suggested supplements have no long-term health benefits for health adults, but could be potentially harmful. Some of the studies also examined the supplements' effects on death from all causes.

However, one vitamin which seemed to work as expected was folic acid. To prevent one case of stroke, 167 people need to take folic acid supplements regularly and 250 people would need to take supplements containing B complex vitamins and folic acid to prevent one case of stroke.

The authors recommend eating a more plant-based diet with less processed food.

"Taking all those supplements", he added, "really just makes your pee very expensive".