As a child, I started every morning with one of those candy-colored Flintstone vitamins. Presumably my mom thought they’d make me stronger and more resilient. But according to a group of Johns Hopkins physicians/professors, my mom might as well have not bothered: “supplements have little health benefits in generally well-nourished, Western populations,” the doctors wrote. What’s worse, when taken incorrectly, they can even increase the risk of death.
In an editorial (with the exhortative title “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements”), the authors note that they reviewed a number of drug trials examining the use of both multivitamins and single or paired vitamins. The studies they examined had a total of 400,000 participants, and the conclusions were pretty adamant: “There was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.”
While the editorial argues persuasively that “supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death,” those aren’t the only reasons people take vitamins. Some of us take vitamins to improve mood, or to supplement a vegetarian diet, for example. But the authors’ warning that increased doses of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A could potentially increase the risk of death in certain cases.
It’s good to know that multivitamins aren’t a panacea, and it’s helpful to be warned of some of multivitamins’ harmful effects. But you know? I’m probably going to keep taking mine anyway. Just in case.
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