Vitamin supplements: Study says products are a ‘waste of money’ – what to do instead

Dr Oscar Duke issues warning over ‘fizzy’ vitamins

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Supplements have seen a boom in popularity in the last century. However, some experts have been heavily scrutinising the small dietary products. Certain supplements have been even linked to adverse side effects like heart problems or cancer. A study, which will be published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), further adds to the claim that they are not necessarily in most cases.

The research shares that non-pregnant, otherwise healthy people don’t need supplements and are only wasting money on the products.

They came to this conclusion as there wasn’t enough evidence that the little pills can help prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Dr Jeffrey Linder, chief of general internal medicine in the department of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “Patients ask all the time, ‘What supplements should I be taking?’

“They’re wasting money and focus thinking there has to be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be following the evidence-based practices of eating healthy and exercising.”

The new study supports the recent recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

Based on a review of 84 studies, the USPSTF’s new guidelines state there was “insufficient evidence” that taking multivitamins, paired supplements or single supplements can help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer in otherwise healthy, non-pregnant adults.

“The task force is not saying ‘don’t take multivitamins,’ but there’s this idea that if these were really good for you, we’d know by now,” Linder added.

However, there are certain products that the task force recommended against, including beta-carotene and vitamin E.

Beta-carotene has been linked to a higher risk of lung cancer while vitamin E has no “net benefit” in cutting mortality, heart diseases or cancer.

While supplements might not offer plentiful benefits, diet and exercise are still considered the key to a healthy life.

Apart from your five-a-day, there are also other rules to adhere to, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It recommends less than 10 percent of total energy to come from free sugars, which is the equivalent of 50 grams or about 12 level teaspoons.

Free sugars represent all the sugar added to your foods or drinks as well as the naturally present sugar in the likes of honey and juices.

Less than 30 percent of your total energy intake should be from fats. However, you should aim for the majority of your fats to be unsaturated – think avocado, fish, nuts and soybeans.

Saturated fats can lead to high levels of “bad” cholesterol, putting you at a greater risk of heart disease. Your intake of saturated fats should be reduced to less than 10 percent.

However, trans-fats, found in baked and fried foods, and pre-packaged snacks and foods, “should be avoided”, the WHO states.

Apart from regulating your sugar intake, you should also cut down on salt and make sure you don’t eat more than six grams a day. Be mindful of the salt that is hidden in the food you buy in the supermarket.

Exercise is also crucial, with the NHS recommending adults to do some type of physical activity every day as exercise just once or twice a week can cut the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Although the majority of healthy people might not benefit from supplement use, the new USPSTF guidelines do not apply to people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

JAMA editorial co-author Dr Natalie Cameron said: “Pregnant individuals should keep in mind that these guidelines don’t apply to them.

“Certain vitamins, such as folic acid, are essential for pregnant women to support healthy fetal development.

“The most common way to meet these needs is to take a prenatal vitamin.

“More data is needed to understand how specific vitamin supplementation may modify risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and cardiovascular complications during pregnancy.”

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