Are Vitamin and Mineral Supplements a Waste of Money?

Are Vitamin and Mineral Supplements a Waste of Money?

By Trudi Purdy, wlr team

Key Takeaways

  • Taking most vitamin and mineral supplements give no health benefits
  • Folic acid and B vitamins with folic acid are the exception to the rule
  • 10 million people in the UK take vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Spending £175 million each year
  • In 2017, 46% of Brits were taking vitamins, minerals or multivitamins

But a new study suggests taking vitamin and mineral supplements may be a complete waste of time and money.

The Study

Researchers from St Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto analysed existing data and single randomised control trials published from January 2011 to October 2017 to examine the benefits of taking vitamin and mineral supplements.

In Detail

The team were specifically looking for evidence that the most common supplements – multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin – aided in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and premature death.

They also looked at data that included:

  • Multivitamins (including most vitamins)
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B9
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • β Carotene
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium

The study showed no advantage or any added risk in taking vitamin and mineral supplements except folic acid and B vitamins with folic acid.

Niacin and antioxidants showed a very small effect.

In other words, only folic acid made any positive difference. The rest didn’t do any good, but also didn’t do any harm.

Lead author, Dr David Jenkins said,

‘We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume. Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm - but there is no apparent advantage either.’

Unless your health care professional has suggested a specific vitamin with a specific dosage, the evidence shows there is no benefit to over-the-counter supplements.

In Conclusion

Dr Jenkins sums it up perfectly,

'In the absence of significant positive data - apart from folic acid's potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease - it's most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals. So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits and nuts.'

Follow a healthy, well-balanced diet and you can ditch the supplements and save some cash!

A Mediterranean diet has fresh fruit and veg, wholegrains, legumes, fish and poultry, covering all the basics of a good, healthy diet. Take a look at our 7 day plan to see the delicious dishes you could be enjoying instead of popping pills.

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