Vitamins do more harm than good: study

Australia’s latest nutrition survey results have been released, showing that 29 per cent of people have taken at least one dietary supplement as an “insurance policy” against poor dietary habits. However, a new study has shown that the most commonly taken supplements had little or no effect, while some less common vitamins did.

The team examined 179 research papers and combined the results to examine the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements for prevention of heart disease, stroke and premature death.

The supplements examined included vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), C, D, E, beta-carotene, and minerals calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium.

The results found there was no reduction in the incidence of heart disease, stroke or premature death in the four most common supplements: multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium, proving that although there was no harm in taking them, there were also no benefits.

Furthermore, the results found that less common supplements, such as folic acid supplements, had the potential to reduce heart disease and stroke.

Despite this finding, it was calculated that in order to prevent one case of heart disease or stroke, 111 people would need to be taking folic acid supplements. For a stroke, 167 people would need to take folic acid to prevent once case, and 250 people would have to take B-complex vitamin to prevent one case.

On the other hand, the researchers also found an adverse effect from supplementation. Extended use of vitamin B3 (niacin) increase the risk of early death by 10 per cent. However, 200 people would need to take niacin before seeing one case of early death.

To add to this, the data showed that there were no benefits for disease or stroke prevention from taking vitamin D, even though it is commonly taken for other conditions such as diabetes.

In saying this, the study’s authors warned that there is low-to-moderate quality of evidence for taking B-complex vitamins for stroke, and folic acid supplements for the prevention of heart disease and stroke.

Instead, they recommend eating a diet rich in whole foods in order to cover your daily vitamin, mineral and nutrient needs. In order to increase folate levels naturally, consume foods such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, poultry, eggs, and citrus fruits. You can also get a good dose of vitamin B3 from eating lean meats, milk, eggs, wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts, and leafy green vegetables.

For more on this topic, a new study has linked belly fat to vitamin D deficiency, and these are the food pairs you should eat to get the most nutrients from your meals.

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