Some Supplements Could Harm You?

From the Seattle Times:

Supplements that millions of Americans take to stave off disease and slow the aging process do not boost longevity and appear to actually increase the risk of dying, according to the most comprehensive study of whether popular “antioxidants” help users live longer.

The analysis, which pooled data from 68 studies involving more than 232,000 people, found no evidence that taking beta-carotene, Vitamin A or Vitamin E extends life span. In fact, the analysis indicated that the supplements increase the likelihood of dying by about 5 percent. Vitamin C and selenium appeared to have no impact — either way — on longevity.

The study does not address the question of multivitamins.

If you’re loading up on Vitamin A or E, you might want to back off. The vitamin industry’s response to the study was sort of scary and callous sounding:

“The message to the average consumer is: Don’t pay attention to this. This doesn’t apply to you. You can go ahead and continue taking your antioxidant supplements in addition to the other things you do in your life to stay healthy,” said Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group.

Wow, thanks. That’s comforting. —MEGHANN MARCO

Supplement use doesn’t help and may harm, study finds [Seattle Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. agdTinMan says:

    Don’t people know by now that too much of ANYTHING can harm you? Didn’t someone just die from drinking too much WATER for a contest recently? And I don’t think it was because their stomach burst, it was an actual chemical thing that killed them.

  2. Mr. Gunn says:

    Yeah, and not all supplements are the same, and there’s no way to control a meta-analysis like that for the data that they didn’t collect.

  3. All supplements certainly are not the same. They may vary from company to company, from batch to batch, or from pill to pill for all you know.

    People in the USA tend to assume that the FDA approves dietary supplements based on safety and efficacy. I mean, that’s obvious, isn’t it? Safety testing, and testing to see that the pill contains what it’s supposed to contain, at least?


    It’s similar in a lot of other countries, too. Dietary supplements are the Wild West of medicine. The manufacturers police themselves, and that’s working out about as well as it usually does.

  4. Kangarara says:

    Supplements that millions of Americans take to stave off disease and slow the aging process do not boost longevity and appear to actually increase the risk of dying

    I’m pretty sure the ‘risk of dying’ is fixed. And 100%.

  5. shoegazer says:

    @Kangarara: I think they mean you’re 5% more likely to die at any given time. What really boggles me is this bit:

    Representatives of the vitamin industry, as well as some other researchers, disputed the findings, criticizing the study for, among other things, including people who were already sick. People tend to take vitamins to stay healthy, they said.

    That hurts my brain. Are they saying vitamins only help you when you’re NOT sick? That a “standard sample” of people excludes everyone who may or may not have cancer? Anyone care to clarify this?

  6. Stepehn Colbert says:

    I donno, bulking up on multi-vitamins may be worse, seeing as how they’re jam packed with lead in the cheap-shit brands.

  7. KesCaesar says:

    I don’t take vitamins to live longer, but improve the quality of life. If you’re taking anti-oxidents for anything other than cell renewal (ie, skin care), I don’t know why: I have *never* heard the claim that they would help you live longer. Vitamin C? To prevent scurvy. :)

  8. Yeah, this is a big steaming slice of pseudoscience…but then again, so are the claims of supplement manufacturers, most of the time.

    Only thing that really worries me is that pharmacos (sometimes through their favorite shills, medical doctors) are gunning hard to get supplements either off the shelves, or safely patented in a way that makes them more money. And while I’m all for regulating pill manufacturers of any type, my problem is that they almost always want to go after plants and other natural cures (too cheap! too unmarketable!), which my broke-and-uninsured butt would be dead already without access to.

    If only we had something like the FDA, except that you could actually trust it…

  9. Terminixsux says:

    How about just maintaining a well balanced diet? Then you don’t need supplements. People pump themselves full of god only knows what in some misguided attempt to live longer. I suppose one could argue that it’s Darwinism when such behavior results in bad outcomes.

  10. NeonCat says:

    You can pry my megavitamin bottles out of my cold, dead hands. Along with my guns.

  11. lpranal says:

    What I find highly suspect is the fact that they don’t mention the dosage size. That can have a HUGE effect on the overall impact of the vitamins… which is also why the FDA recommends a simple multivitamin for everyone, and nothing more. They acknowledge this, in the article:

    “But the findings are consistent with evidence suggesting that some nutrients may be harmful at high doses or could interfere with the body’s natural defenses, the researchers said.”

    Alot of the single-vitamin supplements have above 1000% of the RDA. If you consume that much of ANYTHING there’s the potential for problems. Unfortunately, there are enough consumers out there who compare strictly on numbers, and say “WOW! 30 times the amount of vitamin C! I’ll be 30 times healthier!” to make it lucrative to market mega-dose supplements.

  12. hop says:

    just eat the right food,you will probably get all the stuff you need, unless,of course, your doctor recommends that you take some sort of suppliment

  13. As a general rule (and doctors have been saying this about the uber-supplements for YEARS), the water-soluble vitamins in huge amounts are probably okay (although useless) because you excrete the extra but the fat-soluble ones can cause all kinds of problems when you take them in super-high amounts — the vitamins with 1000% of everything. That’s just stupid.

    The leading cause of poisoning in children under age six, by the way, is iron poisoning from vitamins.

    This is, once again, why Eyebrows takes Flintstone vitamins. I feel much better getting 83% of a 12-year-old’s RDA of Vitamin Whatever than 1000% of a 180-lb adult male’s. I mean, it’s not like I don’t eat FOOD with vitamins in it too!

  14. adamondi says:

    In related news: A study shows that a certain brand and model of car tends to explode more often than competing models in the same class.

    “Don’t pay attention to this. You can keep driving the exploding car without worrying about dying a fiery, painful death,” said Bob Ford, a spokesman for the manufacturer.

  15. middy says:

    I’ve known since I was a kid that you don’t take more than the RDA of fat-soluble vitamins like A and E…

    I like the Flintstones idea, Eyebrows.

  16. synergy says:

    I’m wondering who paid for the meta-study. Also, were the conditions the same or similar in the studies lumped? What was the criteria for the studies chosen?