Vitamin and mineral supplements have few health benefits, are a waste of money and might even be harmful to health, three new studies published on Monday show, adding to a growing body of evidence that suggests popping a vitamin pill will not prevent future illness, strengthen your bones or improve your memory.
The new findings come from two research reports published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and a report from an expert panel that was published online and was based on studies involving nearly half a million people.
In a strongly worded editorial titled "Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements," researchers from the University of Warwick and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., said that it's time to stop wasting money on vitamin supplements, adding that disappointing results from the years-long study should put an end to the debate.
One of the studies, which analyzed 24 previous trials on 450,000 people, found that “there was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.”
Another study, which analyzed the role of multivitamins in reducing cognitive diseases among 5,947 men age 65 years or older, after 12 years of follow-up, found that “there were no differences between the multivitamin and placebo groups in overall cognitive performance or verbal memory.”
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A third assessed the benefits of a high dose, 28-component multivitamin supplement in 1,708 men and women with previous cardiovascular incidents and found that there was no “significant difference in recurrent cardiovascular events with multivitamins compared with placebo.”
The editorial, citing several previous trials that showed similar results, said that people should instead spend their money on fruits, vegetables and nuts, which would help them stay healthier.
"People over time and particularly people in the United States have been led to believe that vitamin and mineral supplements will make them healthier, and they're looking for a magic pill," Cynthia Mulrow, a senior deputy editor at the journal who co-wrote the editorial, told Reuters. “But such a pill doesn't exist.”
Most vitamin and mineral pills should be avoided considering their use is not justified, according to the researchers, who added that vitamin-pill makers play on people’s anxiety to remain healthy.
"There are some that advocate we have many nutritional deficiencies in our diet. The truth is though we are in general overfed, our diet is completely adequate," Edgar Miller, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said.
"These companies are marketing products to us based on perceptions of deficiencies," he added. "They make us think our diet is unhealthy, and that they can help us make up for these deficiencies and stop chronic illnesses. The group that needs these is very small. It's not the general population."