"Stop wasting your money on multivitamins and supplements. They aren't doing a damn thing!" is the message researchers of a new study send out to all its readers. How far is this true?
The message is particularly meant for people who already have a "reasonably good" diet and does not come as good news for an industry worth $53 billion in the United States of America. According to statistics, approximately 53 percent of all Americans take at least one supplement each.
The new article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that three studies looking into the benefits of supplements and multivitamins found none. The study involved analyzing the effects of supplements on cardiovascular disease, cancer, mortality, and cognitive decline. They found that there were no significant differences between people who took vitamin supplements and people who didn't.
Researchers noted that buying supplements is a complete waste of money, especially for those who don't have any vitamin deficiency and those who include adequate vitamins in their diet.
Herbal supplements account for a $5 billion industry. Many people turn to herbal alternatives instead of prescribed drugs to improve their health. One reason is that they are marketed as "natural" and "organic." They are also easily available over the counter at about every drug store. What people are not aware of is that previous studies have associated more than 50,000 adverse effects with the use of herbal supplements.
The human body can only absorb a certain amount of vitamins and minerals per day. When this limit is exceeded, the excess amount is excreted from the body in the form of urine. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, which can later prove to be dangerous for health. Researchers from Cleveland Clinic found that excess vitamin E increases the risk of prostate cancer.
"You really have to question now how taking vitamin E will help someone," the researchers told the Washington Post. "Not only is it unlikely to help them, it apparently could hurt them."
Another study revealed that too much vitamin A increases the risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture.
Despite the findings of this new study, many health experts have come to the defense of supplements and multivitamins. They argue that though many studies have highlighted that the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements are often exaggerated, it's impractical to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this basis.
Many people suffer from long term illnesses and cannot include a lot of vitamins in their diet due to restrictions on several food items. In such circumstances, supplements are the only solution. Also, people who are not habituated to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in their diet benefit immensely from vitamin supplements. Vitamin B-12, an essential vitamin is only found in animal food. Hence, vegans and vegetarians have to depend on supplements to get their daily dose of this vitamin.
Researchers from the Council for Responsible Nutrition also went on record to nullify the "vitamin E - prostate cancer" claim stating that when the vitamin is combined with selenium, the risk is reduced to a non-significant statistic.
"This reinforces the theory that vitamins work synergistically and that drug-like trials of nutrients, when used in isolation from other nutrients, may not be the most appropriate way to study them," Duffy MacKay, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said in a written statement.
From all the studies conducted on this topic, the message to take away is that while multivitamins and supplements cannot be entirely regarded as "no use," their excessive use can outweigh the benefits.