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Most health supplements provide no real benefit
June 19, 2018, 12:59 pm

Many popular vitamin and mineral supplements provide no consistent health benefit or harm, suggests a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto.

A systematic review of existing data and single randomized control trials from January 2012 to October 2017 found that multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C — the most common supplements — showed no advantage or added risk in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or premature death. Generally, vitamin and mineral supplements are taken to add to nutrients that are found in food.

The researchers said they were surprised that they could find “so few positive effects for the most common supplements that people consume”. They added that while their review showed that using multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C did no harm, there was no apparent advantage either.

The study found folic acid alone and B-vitamins with folic acid may reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke. Meanwhile, niacin and antioxidants showed a very small effect that might signify an increased risk of death from any cause.

The findings suggest that people should be conscious of the supplements they are taking and ensure they are applicable to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies they have been advised of by their healthcare provider.

The team reviewed supplement data that included A, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folic acid), C, D and E; and beta-carotene; calcium; iron; zinc; magnesium; and selenium. The term 'multivitamin' in the review was used to describe supplements that include most vitamins and minerals, rather than a select few.

"In the absence of significant positive data — apart from folic acid's potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease — it is most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals," said the researchers. They added that no research on supplements has so far shown that they were better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits and nuts.

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