Health & Wellbeing

Large-scale study finds most vitamin and mineral supplements have no positive effect

A new meta-study suggests vitamin supplements are mostly useless in extending people's lives or protecting them from cardiovascular disease
A new meta-study suggests vitamin supplements are mostly useless in extending people's lives or protecting them from cardiovascular disease
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A new meta-study suggests vitamin supplements are mostly useless in extending people's lives or protecting them from cardiovascular disease
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A new meta-study suggests vitamin supplements are mostly useless in extending people's lives or protecting them from cardiovascular disease

Many scientists claim that, for most people, the only outcome from taking vitamin supplements is expensive urine. Now an international team of scientists has added weight to that belief in a large-scale meta-analysis that has concluded that most common vitamin supplements provide no health benefits, particularly in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and premature death.

The researchers systematically evaluated 179 clinical trials, published between 2012 and 2017. The trials were testing the impact of a range of vitamin and mineral supplements on decreasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and all deaths, regardless of the cause (aka all-cause mortality). The four most commonly used supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) showed no statistically significant benefits in reducing the risk of any of the targeted conditions.

"We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume," says David Jenkins, lead author on the study. "Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm – but there is no apparent advantage either."

The only significant effects of note found in the study were a positive correlation between folic acid and stroke or heart disease prevention, and a very small negative correlation indicating niacin (vitamin B3) and antioxidants could actually increase the risk for all-cause mortality.

The researchers conclude by suggesting a healthy diet consisting of unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts is still the most effective way to consume vitamins and minerals. Australian nutritionist Rosemary Stanton affirms the findings of the study, and urges people to avoid wasting money on unnecessary vitamin and mineral supplements.

"There may be lots of money to be made selling supplements to gullible people," says Stanton, "but these products cannot match the literally thousands of important components available in healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, fish, nuts and seeds."

A minor limitation in the study could be seen to be its broad focus. John Funder, from Monash University, points out that the study does not suggest vitamin or mineral supplements are useless in clinical cases where a patient actively needs those supplements.

As an example he highlights the niacin conclusion from the study, which suggests an association with a mild increase in all-cause mortality. This data point is only generated from three specific trials examining the supplement when taken alongside statins in patients with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Funder stresses that data such as this should not be misinterpreted by groups of people such as pregnant women who are advised to take niacin.

"This would be a great pity," Funder says of the risk the study resulting in those needing supplements subsequently refusing them, "given the recent discovery of mutations in the enzymes required for the synthesis of NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) in children with major developmental abnormalities, and the ability of giving equivalently genetically compromised pregnant mice vitamin B3 to normalize outcomes for their offspring."

Perhaps the most fundamental takeaway from this study is defiantly unsurprising but always worth restating. For those eating a normal, healthy diet, vitamin and mineral supplements are simply a waste of money. Extra boosts of vitamins we do not need will not confer enhanced protective benefits from disease or help us live longer.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Source: St Michael's Hospital via ScienceDaily

18 comments
sugamari
ya well - after they reduced the actual vitamin content and sell us mostly filler - ie cellulose. if only the scientists could get their hands on vitamins from the 50s and 60s - or even the 70s - I'm sure they would not be able to say there's no effect.
FrankWest
Bought and paid for.
Mik-Fielding
This all sounds rather dubious. Are they referring to synthetic or naturally produced vitamins? If the former, which I suspect it is, then I am not surprised. Personally I have found that taking 5000iu Vit D + K2 suppliment has definitely had a good effect on my health and so has a gram of Vit C daily, I notice the difference quite quickly in fact. Being disabled with severe emphysema I cannot afford to catch a cold or flu and I haven't done so since I have been taking these. Furthermore I used to get serious cramps at night until I started to take a decent magnesium supplement and now vary rarely have them. Maybe for some people who eat a great diet, get plenty of sunlight and keep really fit will find that supplements don't make any difference as they don't need them. I suspect this research is somewhat flawed, especially when reading the bit about "particularly in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and premature death." There are numerous aspects of health that come nowhere near these serious conditions which are caused by more than a lack of vitamins or minerals!
KungfuSteve
What a Crock of Bullcrap. Its not about longevity. Its about the daily quality of Life. Rather than feel tired, and have poor overall health... some of us chose otherwise... and yeah, the MV's I use, do work well. (gummies)
owlbeyou
Mik-Fielding raises some good points. As someone who's been taking vitamin supplements for over 30 years, I can vouch for their effectiveness (or lack of). It started by taking the advice from a good fiend with the logic that using them daily was at least an "insurance policy" to make sure there was no deficit from my regular diet. With 20/20 hindsight, I can now say that much of it was a waste of time and money. The important consideration is to take a tailored personal cocktail for your specific needs. Presently for me it's a gram of C, omega 3, 2000 IU's of D, and some Zinc in the wintertime, along with a wholesome diet. Like Hippocrates said: Let food be your medicine. If you eat a steady diet of fast/junk food or feel insecure about your health, you're the perfect client for the vitamin industry.
ljaques
How many people do you know who eat a normal, healthy diet? 'Nuff said? How many doctors do you know who are even in a =minor= way cognizant of nutrition? It seems like they take a 1-hour course on nutrition during their years at medical school. The AMA has been bought by Big Pharma.
Skyler Thomas
The study specifically looks at CVD, which is not reflected in the article's title, and is poorly represented in its content. Rich is, however, spot on about proper diet being a superior means of getting proper nutrients. The idea 'normal healthy diet' is extremely vague, however, and not reflective of the varying dietary needs and limitations of the individual.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Looking back, all of my tendonitis started when I stopped taking 1 gm./day of vitamin C. I was taking it to eliminate the common cold and quit because it had no effect. Gluten free greatly reduced the tendonitis (possibly gout). I resumed the vitamin C because of what happened before. I started taking Super Beta Prostate because of having to get up a night. This definitely makes a difference, keeping me in bed all night. I am also taking E oil to make up for the wheat germ that I don't eat.
Wolf0579
The US Food and Drug administration put out a similar study about two years ago. It hit the media for about one second, then disappeared faster than Senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas after saying she thought "the israelis should get out of Palestine at a Saturday afternoon party." Big pharma is going to be the death of this Nation, unless Trump starts a Nuke war to distract from the Russia Probe first.
michael_dowling
My doctor is aware I take 3000mcg of D3,and he is okay with it,as the blood work from my last physical showed my D3 was low. I also take 3 grams of C (timed release) a day.