People Are Wasting Billions Every Year On Useless Supplements, Scientists Warn

In the latest repudiation of vitamin supplements, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has now given new recommendations, officially stating there is not enough evidence to suggest supplements deliver benefits to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the US.

This was done after considering 84 studies assessing the effects of supplements, encompassing almost 740,000 participants in total.

“Unfortunately, based on the existing evidence, the Task Force cannot recommend for or against the use of most vitamins and minerals and is calling for more research,” says USPSTF interim chief scientific officer John Wong.

The newly discovered evidence of benefits only applies to healthy adults without nutritional deficiencies – and does not apply to people who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, who are recommended to take folic acid supplements.

“We found that there is no benefit to taking vitamin E and that beta-carotene can be harmful because it increases the risk of lung cancer in people already at risk,” says USPSTF vice-chair Michael Barry.

But at the same time supplements are tainted with hidden pharmaceutical ingredients that are not harmful either.

“The Task Force is not saying ‘Don’t take multivitamins,” says clinician Jeffrey Linder, the chief of general internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“But there’s this idea that if these were really good for you, we’d know by now.”

Linder, the co-author of a new editorial commentary on supplement use and the new USPSTF recommendations, says:

“In theory, vitamins and minerals have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects that should decrease the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer,” the commentary, co-authored by Northwestern University researchers Jenny Jia and Natalie Cameron, explains.

“Eating fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased cardiovascular disease and cancer risk. It is reasonable to think that key vitamins and minerals could be extracted from fruits and vegetables, packaged into a pill, and people could avoid the difficulty and expense of maintaining a balanced diet.”

The dietary supplement industry exploits people’s misunderstanding of this ambiguous point, spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to perpetuate false beliefs about the powers of vitamin pills.

“[Patients are] wasting money and focus thinking there has to be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be following the evidence-based practices of eating healthy and exercising,” Linder says.

“The harm is that talking with patients about supplements during the very limited time we get to see them, we’re missing out on counseling about how to really reduce cardiovascular risks, like through exercise or smoking cessation.”ac

The new recommendations are published in JAMA, along with an overview of the research behind the recommendations, and the accompanying editorial article.

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