Americans spend more than $20 billion a year on supplements in hopes of staving off cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Trouble is, the latest research shows they provide no benefit — and they may even be hazardous to our health. But given our nutrient-deprived diets, should we really stop taking these pills altogether?
These are the startling findings of three articles just published in the highly influential Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers involved in the studies didn't mince words; they're concerned that people are spending too much money on pills that confer no benefit, and in some cases may even be harmful. What's more, they even hinted that companies selling supplements are fueling health anxieties to offer unnecessary cures.
Enough is Enough
To reach these conclusions, an international team of researchers conducted three different studies.
The first was a study that looked at the consumption of a daily multivitamin to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer in more than 450,000 participants. These pills had no discernible effect on mortality.
The second study looked into the effects of a daily multivitamin after a heart attack in about 1,700 men and women over an average of five years. No advantage could be found. Although, it needs to be pointed out that more than half of the participants stopped taking their medications, making it difficult for the researchers to draw definitive conclusions.
The third study looked into the use of a multivitamin to prevent dementia in nearly 6,000 men aged 65 or older. Again, nada. Nothing.
"These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough." concluded the experts.
Hazardous to Your Health
If that wasn't bad enough, the researchers also found that vitamin E, when taken in large doses, can be harmful. And shockingly, smokers who took beta carotene were at an increased risk of developing cancer. The researchers also said the antioxidants folic acid and B vitamins are harmful or ineffective for preventing chronic diseases.
Instead of popping vitamins and minerals, the experts recommended that people should eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce trans fat, saturated fat, and salt, reduce calories, and increase physical activity.