NYT asks if vitamins are really “worth it”

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Vitamin Dietary supplement

A study published last week that found no link between multivitamin usage and lower risk of some diseases in women has prompted another round of supplement questioning in the consumer media.

New York Times​ columnist Tara Parker-Pope yet again questions whether vitamins are “worth it”,​ citing recent trials that have repeatedly failed to prove a link between vitamin supplements and disease prevention.

Her column, “Vitamin Pills: A False Hope?”​ is the latest in a string of articles published in the mainstream media that present dietary supplements in a negative light. In the past, these have had a sharp impact on the industry, as they hold significant sway with consumer opinion in a little-understood and badly-informed area.

Conflicting reports

“Consumers are regularly subjected to conflicting reports and claims about the benefits of vitamins, and they seem undeterred by the news — to the dismay of some experts,”​ writes Parker-Pope.

She quotes Dr Eric Klein, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute, and national study coordinator for research published last year that found no benefit of vitamin E and selenium on prostate cancer:

“I’m puzzled why the public in general ignores the results of well-done trials. The public’s belief in the benefits of vitamins and nutrients is not supported by the available scientific data,”​ said Klein.

Women’s Health Initiative

Yesterday’s New York Times article follows the publication last week of results from the Women’s Health Initiative, which found that multivitamin supplements have “little or no influence”​ on a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved 161,808 postmenopausal women aged between 50 and 79, was reportedly the largest study ever conducted on this demographic group.

It concluded that, while nutrition should remain a principle focus for the prevention of chronic diseases, it is unlikely that multivitamin supplements have a role to play.

Parker-Pope’s article again lists previous studies that have found no link between high doses of vitamins and prevention or treatment of a range of chronic diseases. It also highlights some studies that have demonstrated how some vitamins can actually cause harm (beta carotene and lung cancer; folic acid and precancerous polyps).

The article also includes comments from the supplements industry, citing the trade group Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) as saying that everyone is struggling to make sense of the conflicting data.

Consumers and researchers need to “redefine our expectations for these nutrients,” ​said Andrew Shao, CRN vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs. “They aren’t magic bullets.”

To read the New York Times​ article, click here​.

To read a NutraIngredients-USA.com summary on recent articles that have had some harm on the industry – including ones published in the New York Times, ABC, New Scientist, ​and JAMA​ – click here​ .

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