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The Truth About Vitamins and Supplements

A large research review suggests supplements are not a longevity silver bullet.

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Vitamins and supplements

On the whole, Americans spend billions on multivitamins, vitamins and mineral supplements to improve their health, but a review of dozens of studies concluded there is little to no evidence some of those supplements prevent early mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two biggest killers in the country.

The report, released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and published in JAMA, concluded that, based on the best available evidence, “Vitamin and mineral supplementation was associated with little or no benefit in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and death, except for a small benefit for cancer incidence with multivitamin use.”

Vitamins and supplements examined included vitamins A, B, C, D and E, as well as calcium, magnesium, beta carotene, folic acid, selenium, zinc and other multivitamins.

Of concern, beta carotene was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in people with a higher risk of the disease such as smokers.

The finding that most of the products didn’t have any benefits applied to otherwise healthy, nonpregnant adults or children and persons who are chronically ill, are hospitalized or have a known nutritional deficiency.

Instead, the experts involved in the research review agreed the best way to maintain good cardiovascular health and cancer prevention is a balanced diet and frequent physical activity, not popping pills.

See also: Are Nutrition Supplements a Flop?

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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