While many of us think of daily vitamins as a great tool to get the nutrients we need, a new study warns that not only may the pills be less beneficial than we believe, but they may even be harmful for older women. ABC reports that the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which has tracked 38,000 women since the mid 1980’s, has found that dietary supplements have demonstrated no ability to reduce the risk of death in women. Women who took vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron and multivitamins actually showed a slightly increased risk of death. Study researchers found that only those who took calcium supplements demonstrated a decreased risk of death.
The study, which appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is the latest in an expanding body of research which suggests that dietary supplements offer users very few actual health benefits. Study author Jakko Mursu tells ABC “I would conclude that supplements are not protective against chronic diseases. In some cases, they may be harmful, especially if used for a long time.
While this study provided positive information about calcium supplements, other studies have suggested that it, too, may have a negative impact on users. Despite the many conflicting reports about dietary supplements, many still agree that they are helpful for people who have some sort of nutritional deficiency, such as anemia; persons simply wanting to be healthier, however, may do better to try and get vitamins and nutrients from the foods that they eat. Connie Diekman, who is the director of nutrition for Washington University in St. Louis, tells ABC “Supplements should be used to boost intake when food does not meet need.” She also warns that women should only take supplements that they know they need.
The National Institutes of Health reported in 2003 that nearly half of all Americans take at least one dietary supplement, which has fueled a nearly $20 billion dollar industry.