Vitamin and mineral supplements offer no health benefits, study suggests

Worryingly, some even showed signs of an increased risk of death

Sarah Young
Monday 04 June 2018 14:44 BST

Vitamin and mineral supplements usually offer no health benefits and could even be harmful, a new study suggests.

Researchers have revealed that common pills, like vitamin C capsules, have not been proven to provide health benefits while some could even increase the risk of death.

Instead, they suggest people are better off getting their nutrients from eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers from St Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto reviewed the most common supplements taken by the general population including A, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folic acid), C, D and E.

Also studied were the minerals β-carotene, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium.

It found that while multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C showed no harm, they also showed no benefit in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes or premature death.

They also discovered that some, including niacin and antioxidants, showed signs they could actually be harmful as they showed a very small increased risk of death from any cause.

Niacin is often taken to improve cholesterol levels, maintain skin health and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, the vitamin has also been shown to raise blood sugar levels, which could prove dangerous for someone with diabetes. As such, someone could be taking niacin thinking they are treating one health problem only to find they could be increasing their risk of another.

One of the supplements, folic acid, was found to have some positive effects though and was proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.

“We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume,” Dr. David Jenkins, the study's lead author told Science Daily.

“These findings suggest that people should be conscious of the supplements they're taking and ensure they're applicable to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies they have been advised of by their healthcare provider.

“In the absence of significant positive data - apart from folic acid's potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease - it's most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals.

“So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits and nuts.”

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