There are some who swear by massive doses of vitamins, others by smaller doses. But there appears to be building evidence that they do nothing at all and you are best to save your money.
One in two adults takes a daily vitamin pill, and Americans spend tens of billions of dollars each year on supplements. Now, a small coterie of physicians writing in a leading medical journal has offered this blunt advice: “Stop wasting money.”
In an unusually direct opinion piece, the five authors say that for healthy Americans worried about chronic disease, there’s no clear benefit to taking vitamin and mineral pills. And in some instances, they may even cause harm.
The authors make an exception for supplemental vitamin D, which they say needs further research. Even so, widespread use of vitamin D pills “is not based on solid evidence that benefits outweigh harms,” the authors wrote. For other vitamins and supplements, “the case is closed.”
“The message is simple,” the editorial continued. “Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.”
“We have so much information from so many studies,” Dr. Cynthia Mulrow, senior deputy editor of Annals of Internal Medicine and an author of the editorial, said in an interview. “We don’t need a lot more evidence to put this to bed.”
Watch the proponents claim this is big pharma trying to silence them.
Demand for vitamin and mineral supplements has grown markedly in recent years, with domestic sales totaling some $30 billion in 2011. More than half of Americans used at least one dietary supplement from 2003-06, up from 42 percent from 1988-94, according to national health surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most popular products are multivitamin and mineral supplements, which areconsumed by some 40 percent of men and women in the United States, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Whether regular long-term use can prevent heart disease and cancer has never been clearly established, and the authors of the editorial are not the first to point that out.
The Cochrane Collaboration, which publishes reviews of medical evidence, has also concluded that taking vitamins does not extend life. An updated review of the evidence by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, published online on Nov. 12, likewise concluded that there was limited evidence that vitamin and mineral supplementation could prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease.
$30 billion per annum to achieve nothing…hmmm