Vitamin supplements 'do us no good and may be harmful'

We swallow them by the bucketload at great expense but there is no evidence vitamin supplements do us any good, and they may even be doing us harm, scientists have concluded. In a blow to the multimillion pound dietary supplement industry, a review of 67 randomised trials of vitamin pills has found that far from prolonging life, they may actually shorten it.

There is "no convincing evidence" that antioxidant supplements cut the risk of dying prematurely and some of the commonest ones may increase the risk of early death, according to the review, published by The Cochrane Collaboration.

One in three women and one in four men in the UK are estimated to take vitamin pills to ward off disease. Despite several studies warning of potential dangers, the industry continues to thrive.

The latest review, one of the largest involving 232,000 participants, compared those taking the supplements with those who took a placebo or received no treatment. The supplements studied were beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A that is converted into the vitamin in the body), vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.

Goran Bjelakovich, the visiting researcher who led the systematic review at Copenhagen University, said: "We could find no evidence to support taking antioxidant supplements to reduce the risk of dying earlier in healthy people or patients with various diseases."

"The findings show that, if anything, people in trial groups given beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E showed increased rates of mortality. There was no indication that vitamin C and selenium may have positive or negative effects; we need more data [on these]."

The researchers separated out the 47 trials with a low risk of bias and in these they found a significantly increased death rate. When taken separately, vitamin A was associated with a 16 per cent increased mortality, beta-carotene with a 7 per cent increase and vitamin E with a 4 per cent increase. For vitamin C and selenium there was no significant increase or decrease in the death rate.

Dr Bjelakovich said: "The bottom line is that current evidence does not support the use of antioxidant supplements in the general healthy population." The researchers were unable to explain their findings but said "excessive antioxidants can adversely affect key physiological processes".

Yesterday, Pamela Mason, of the Health Supplements Information Service, said: "Trials using antioxidant supplements have shown inconsistent findings and yet another review is not going to tell us anything at this stage that we do not already know."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'