fitness · nutrition

Food: yes. Vitamin supplements: mostly no.

There’s been a lot of vitamin supplement research in the news in the past year. In mid-December, a pretty pointed editorial came out in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Here’s what it said:

Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.
Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.

I find this a refreshing change from more carefully couched medical speak like “blah blah new medicine blah blah no statistically significant effect on blah blah under blah blah conditions blah.” Basically, they are saying this: do not buy vitamins. They don’t reduce your risk of dying from heart attack, your risk of cognitive decline, and some of them increase your risk of various bad health outcomes.

Now fast-forward to today: a new study has come out, and researchers found that some vitamins do in fact increase risk of death.  That sounds bad (because it is). Here’s an excerpt from an article on the study:

Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted a meta-analysis of all published randomised controlled trials that looked at the effects of vitamin and antioxidant supplements on the risk of heart disease and stroke.

They found the most commonly used supplements – multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C – provided “no consistent benefit” for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or stroke. Folic acid alone and B-complex vitamins, which contained folic acid, did show a reduction in stroke.

However, niacin (vitamin B3) and antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E) were associated with an increased risk of all causes of death, according to the findings published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology.

One researcher was quoted in the article saying that, while it’s great that we no longer have problems like scurvy in the population, that doesn’t mean that people in general should take a multivitamin.  What should we do, then?

Eat food. That’s it.

For more cool info on vitamins, how people keep taking them even though they don’t need them, and some speculation about why food is better than vitamins (short answer: we don’t really know), look at this interesting NY Times article.

And if we follow this advice, we’ll have more disposable income, too, (in addition to not increasing our chances of dying).

Happy Thursday!


One thought on “Food: yes. Vitamin supplements: mostly no.

  1. The problem is, corporations take advantage of us by saying that we need these vitamins to ensure that we stay healthy. It’s like they scare us into taking these pills instead of eating a balanced diet. I was so guilty of this. Now, I just eat healthy (most of the time) and I love herbal tea.

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