New vitamin supplement study finds they may do more harm than good
A new study aimed to examine the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements for prevention of heart disease, stroke and premature death (termed “all-cause mortality”). This found the most commonly studied ones had no effect, while some less common ones did have an effect.
In Australia’s most recent nutrition survey, 29% of people reported having taken at least one dietary supplement. This proportion was even higher in the United States at 52%.
A new study out today aimed to examine the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements for prevention of heart disease, stroke and premature death (termed “all-cause mortality”). This found the most commonly studied ones had no effect, while some less common ones did have an effect. The review also found some supplements can be harmful.
What did the study find?
The study was a systematic review, meaning the team of researchers examined all relevant research papers (179 in total) and combined the results. The supplements examined included vitamins A, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), C, D, E, beta-carotene, and the minerals calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Multivitamins were defined as including most of these vitamins and minerals.
In studies testing the four common supplements of multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C, there was no reduction in incidence of heart disease, stroke or premature death. This means there was no benefit from taking them, but also no harm.
They also evaluated less common supplements that did have positive impacts on early death, heart disease and stroke. Here they found folic acid supplements showed a reduction in heart disease and stroke.
It was calculated that in order to prevent one case of heart disease or stroke, 111 people needed to be taking folic acid supplements (this is termed the “numbers needed to treat”). For stroke, 167 people would need to take folic acid to prevent one case, and 250 people would have to take B-complex vitamins (which contain folic acid, which is vitamin B9) to prevent one case.
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