Supplements: Neither good nor bad, says Washington Post

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Multivitamin Cancer

Dietary supplements perform no harmful nor beneficial function for those without any kind of chronic deficiency, according to an article in the Washington Post.

Post ​journalist, Carolyn Butler, references studies that turned in ambivalent results and which have been severely criticized by industry for their poor design, in an article that concludes with her advocacy of whole foods over dietary supplementation.

While observing a $25bn industry serving more than half of Americans who consume multivitamins daily, Butler observes, the evidence on effectiveness is decidedly mixed.”

In fact, while some older studies have linked multivitamin use to the prevention of conditions such as breast and colon cancer and heart disease, the latest research has shown absolutely no impact on health and disease prevention, over time.”

Marian Neuhouser, the lead researcher of a study that tracked 161,000 women for eight years and found multivitamins had not effect on 10 health categories, said: "The big takeaway message is that if someone takes a multivitamin, it doesn't make them any healthier, but it doesn't really harm them, either.”

The National Institutes of Health took a similar position in 2006 after a review, "indicated no evidence to suggest that people taking multivitamins should stop and also found that if people are not taking them, then there's absolutely no reason they should start."

But Paul Coates, director of the NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements, called for more research, acknowledged a reality the supplements industry has been highlighting for decades.

"It's a challenge to construct appropriately powered clinical studies to examine the potential health effects of nutrients, over and above what people are getting in their diets. . . . There's no zero exposure, no real placebo."

The article also questioned the so-called disparity in quality between more expensive and cheaper supplements.

The Washington Post article can be found here​.

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