Last updated August 2, 2018 at 10:52 am
In some cases they may be killing you, researchers say.
There’s no evidence vitamin or mineral pills protect against or help to treat heart disease and some supplements – vitamin B3 (niacin) and antioxidants – may actually increase the risk of death, according to scientists at the University of Toronto, Canada.
After reviewing 179 different studies, they have concluded that current recommendations to adopt healthy diets heavy in plant-based foods from which these vitamins are derived naturally should be reinforced.
Only folic acid supplements get a positive review, as research suggests they may reduce the risk of stroke.
The 179 papers reviewed were published between January 2012 and October 2017 – both before and after the US Preventive Services Task Force issued guidelines on the use of vitamins, minerals and multivitamins for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer in 2013.
The Toronto team found that data on the four most commonly used supplements – multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C – showed no consistent benefit for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction or stroke, nor was there a benefit for all-cause mortality.
Folic acid alone and B-complex vitamins in which folic acid was a component did show a reduction in stroke; however, niacin and antioxidants were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality.
Australians have ‘swallowed the line’
Commenting on the findings, leading Australian nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM noted that “more than half of Australians have swallowed the line that it’s good to take supplements” but the new research has made it clear that this was money wasted and could actually be harmful.
“The real problems with the Australian diet are that people ignore healthy products and choose too many junk foods and drinks,” she said.
“These foods not only contribute 35 per cent of adults’ and 40 per cent of children’s kilojoules but they’re high in added sugars, salt and unhealthy kinds of fat. Taking a supplement can’t undo the adverse effects of these problem ingredients.
“Rather than spending money on supplements, it makes much more sense to enjoy healthy and delicious foods. It’s not difficult to choose healthy foods in Australia. Guidelines are available at eatforhealth.gov.au.”
The paper published in The Journal of The American College Of Cardiology.