New research indicates that taking vitamin supplements is not enough to keep people healthy and that supplements do not replace eating a healthy, balanced diet. In addition, taking high doses of certain supplements could actually raise the risk of death.
Research published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that while certain nutrients could extend life, they needed to come from food sources. In fact, there was not much evidence supporting the notion that supplements prolong life at all, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans take them on a daily basis.
“Based on the totality of evidence, it’s becoming more and more clear that the regular use of dietary supplements is not beneficial in reducing the risk of mortality among the general population in the U.S.,” said Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, co-author of the study, CBS News reported.
According to the study, 27,725 adults 20-years-old or older participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. More than half of them admitted to taking dietary supplements in the past 30 days, and almost 40 percent said they had taken multivitamins and mineral supplements.
The study did find a lower risk of death associated with supplements, but after researchers adjusted for factors like lifestyle, smoking, and education, the association was insignificant.
During a six-year follow-up, 3,613 of participants died. Of those deaths, 945 were cardiovascular-related deaths and 805 were deaths related to cancer. Research indicated that getting enough of the vitamins A and K, along with the minerals magnesium, zinc, and copper were associated with living longer — but only when these nutrients come from healthy food sources.
In addition, the study said that people taking high doses of calcium in a supplement form had a 53 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than those not taking supplements, CBS reported. Curiously, excess calcium from food sources did not show the same risk, suggesting that it may be easier for the body to rid itself of natural forms of calcium than it is to remove supplemental calcium.
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Dr. Rekha Kumar, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of medicine at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, said the findings didn’t surprise her.
“I don’t think you can undo the effect of a bad diet by taking supplements.”
Kelly Sanna-Gouin, echoed Kumar’s statement, adding that healthy foods can protect people from diseases, so it is better to focus on a balanced diet rather than investing in supplements.
Last year, Americans spent more than $40 billion on supplements, CBS reported.