Even better, don’t use them at all unless your doctor tells you to.
You’ll save money, and you’ll probably be healthier.
I posted a few years ago that Healthy adults don’t need multivitamins. Earlier this month a new study was published that showed not only do we (healthy adults) not need supplemental vitamins and minerals, some may actually cause harm.
What the study showed
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. That’s good, because it’s hard to trust studies that are funded by industry, such as drug companies or supplement manufacturers.
The study also followed a large number of adults, about 27,000, over a six-year period. That gives the results a little more weight than if the researchers followed only 200 adults over three months.
Study participants filled out questionnaires about their diets, supplement use (what kind and for how long), and general health.
The highlights were:
- People who got enough vitamin K or magnesium had a lower risk of death, BUT ONLY if they got those nutrients from the foods they ate.
- People who got enough vitamin A, vitamin K, zinc or copper had a lower risk of heart disease, BUT ONLY if they got those nutrients from the foods they ate.
- People who took calcium supplements (more than 1,000 mg/day) had a higher risk of dying from cancer BUT NOT people who got calcium from the foods they ate.
- People who took vitamin D supplements (more than 400 IU/day) had a higher risk of dying from cancer.
The study’s conclusion?
CONCLUSION: Use of dietary supplements is not associated with mortality benefits among U.S. adults
In other words, healthy adults don’t need multivitamins.
Spend your money on healthy foods
Skip the supplements and focus on a nutritious, calorie-appropriate diet. I always like food writer Michael Pollan’s advice: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.
This latest study underscores that vitamins and minerals are much better for us when we get them from food. We really don’t understand how these nutrients work together, but they certainly seem to be more bioactive (healthy) and bioavailable (better absorbed) when we eat them as they were meant to be eaten.
We also don’t really understand why vitamins and minerals that have been isolated and put into tablet (or gummy) form are not as good, or are even harmful. But research over the last decade certainly points in that direction.
Ask your doctor about supplements
There are people who may benefit from nutritional supplements, or at least the benefits outweigh the harms.
For example, anyone with a disease or condition that keeps them from absorbing nutrients properly—people with Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome or celiac disease. Or the elderly, or cancer patients.
Related post: Vitamin B12 deficiency is not common
If you’re really concerned you need a dietary supplement, talk to your doctor first, or at least a registered dietitian.
Just don’t fall for the marketing claims that certain vitamins or minerals or special combinations will make you healthier. More likely than not, those products are a waste of money.
Want more information on supplement safety? I have a list of good websites on my Resources page.