Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Diet Supplements – What Works?

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Multivitamins (Photo credit: Brian Gaid)

Even though millions of Americans pop a dietary supplement or two or three every day, an influential government-appointed panel of experts says the jury is still out on whether they help boost health or not.

Certain supplements, such as beta carotene may actually do more harm than good. Previous studies have raised some concerns when  beta carotene supplementation actually increased lung cancer risks  in clinical trials when compared to the placebo.  Vitamin E showed no benefit for heart disease when compared to a placebo.  There is not enough evidence to support a lower risk of heart disease or cancer by taking single supplement or a multivitamin.

The expert panel noted, however, it didn’t have enough data to advise against taking most of these supplements, either.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, which represents the vitamin supplement industry, had this to say about the Task Force’s recommendation:

“As the researchers have indicated, there is limited evidence for multivitamins in preventing cancer or cardiovascular disease; however, we believe the paucity of clinical trial evidence should not be misinterpreted as a lack of benefit for the multivitamin,” Duffy McKay, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the council, said in a statement. “We know for sure that multivitamins can fill nutrient gaps, and as so many people are not even reaching the recommended dietary allowances for many nutrients, that’s reason enough to add an affordable and convenient multivitamin to their diets.”

SOURCE: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, news release, Nov. 11, 2013; Nov. 11, 2013, statement, Council for Responsible Nutrition, Washington, D.C.

However, there are myriads of supplements that claim health benefits for almost any medical condition out there, most of which have not been tested in any clinical trial.  For those that have been studied, it appears that there is not much evidence to support their continued use.

The article below addresses this problem:


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