People think taking nutritional supplements will add years to their life.
But science disagrees.
A new study has found that only nutrients present in natural foods can reduce your chances of death, and that taking supplements has little to no effect on your health.
In fact, some of the supplements like those containing high amounts of vitamin D and calcium can even increase your chances of having cancer.
Scientists said the study provides evidence that lifestyle and diet are key to health, and that nutritional supplements cannot be used as ‘insurance’.
The study was conducted by scientists from Tufts University on more than 27,000 adults from the US.
Researchers found that the nutrients which lower the risk of both cancer-related and other deaths do so only when they are taken from natural foods and not from supplements.
The study compared the rates of death from all causes – including cancer and cardiovascular disease – with the intake of a wide variety of nutrients.
People who consume magnesium and zinc, as well as, vitamins A and K, are at low risk of death. But it holds true only when these things are taken from food rather than supplements.
The study authors also found that people who take calcium doses higher than 1,000 milligrams per day unknowingly put themselves in greater danger.
Such people were found to be 53% more likely to die from cancer.
Moreover, people who were not deficient in vitamin D but still took its supplements were more likely to die of death from any cause.
The team of scientists found no correlation between cancer-related deaths and consumption of calcium from natural sources.
‘It is important to understand the role that the nutrient and its source might play in health outcomes, particularly if the effect might not be beneficial,’ lead study author Dr Fang Zhang said.
‘Our results support the idea that, while supplement use contributes to an increased level of total nutrient intake, there are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements.
‘This study also confirms the importance of identifying the nutrient source when evaluating mortality outcomes.’
In the research, participants were asked if they had used any supplements in the last 30 days. Those who had taken a supplement were asked its name as well as the duration and frequency of use.
Interviewers also asked the participants to recall their 24-hour diet over a course of several days to assess nutrient intake from foods.
‘People who self-medicate with supplements are often the “worried well” or those who have health problems,’ said Professor Tom Sanders, of King’s College London.
‘Furthermore, there are those who eat poor quality diets but take a supplement as an insurance policy. You can’t turn a bad diet into a good diet with handful of pills.’
‘The growing message is routine vitamin supplementation offers little if any benefit to health and may cause harm,’ added Professor Hugh Montgomery, of UCL Institute Human Health and Performance.
‘Meanwhile, it is clear diets high in these components are healthy.
‘Supplementing some vitamins and/or minerals can benefit those at risk (e.g. folic acid in pregnancy) or who may benefit for specific medical reasons (such as osteoporosis).
‘However, in general terms, those otherwise healthy may do better overall to concentrate on consuming a healthy diet rich in vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grain and fruit than to spend money on supplements.
‘The latter are not generally an effective substitute for, or supplement to, the former.’
Professor Judy Buttriss, of the British Nutrition Foundation, said the findings of the study add more evidence to the fact that micronutrient supplements do not reduce the risk of death.
Buttriss said: ‘Research on diet is increasingly looking at the effects on health of dietary patterns, rather than isolated nutrients, and it’s clear that it’s the diet as a whole and not single nutrients in isolation that can have the greatest beneficial impact on health.’
Recommended Video – “Everyone Should Know These 6 Sleeping Positions For Every Health Problem”