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Scientists studying vitamin supplements warn that they’re a huge waste of money

Published May 29th, 2018 2:33PM EDT
do vitamins work
Image: Live Science

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Popping a couple of vitamin supplements after breakfast is a daily routine for lots and lots of people, but just how much do those pills contribute to your overall wellbeing? Not a whole lot, according to a new study led by Dr. David Jenkins of the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital.

The paper, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, focused on the heart health benefits (or lack thereof) of many different supplements including popular vitamins from A to E, calcium, beta carotene, and multivitamins. The results suggest that if you’re dropping cash on bottles of these pills, there’s a good chance they’re not doing much for you.

The researchers looked at data gathered by recent surveys and trials, crunching the numbers to determine whether individuals who take supplements see cardiovascular benefits and decreased risk of death from cardiac events, and if so, which supplements work and which ones don’t. The results suggest that many multivitamins as well as vitamin C, D, and calcium supplements have no positive cardiovascular benefits, failing to affect the rates of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

Furthermore, antioxidant supplements and niacin were associated with a smaller increase in the risk of mortality. This finding, which shows a slight boost in death from all causes (not just cardiac events) has not been described in great detail, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

But before you go tossing all your supplements in the trash, there’s a tiny bit of good news to be found in the data as well. According to the researchers, B vitamins and folic acid were associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Hooray!

This is hardly the first study to claim that store-bought supplements do little for most of us, so none of this is particularly shocking. The scientists point to increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods as an easy way of boosting the amounts of vitamins and minerals in our diets, and suggest focusing on living a healthy lifestyle rather than trying to find the answer to long life in a bottle.