Vitamins and Supplements Cannot Really Replace Balanced—Natural—Nutrition

The unfortunate—and quite alarming—truth about the American diet is that a vast majority do not enough fruits and vegetables.  Actually, nearly 90 percent of the American do not satisfy this part of the food pyramid and a majority of the adult population try to compensate for this by taking nutritional supplements.  Indeed, the Council for Responsible Nutrition suggests that upwards of 75 percent of US adults take at least one type of dietary supplement.

But while these adults are satisfied that supplements can help to fill in the gaps of their diet, a new study argues that these are just not enough to maintain optimal health. 

This research looked at data taken from roughly 30,000 American adults who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2010. For the survey, each participant provided some information about their supplement use in the previous month, with more than half using supplements at least once, in addition to their overall dietary habits. 

Then the study followed up with these people over the next six year.  During that time, at least 3,600 participants died. 

When analyzing the data, study co-lead Fang Fang Zhang first concluded that nutritional supplements might have some benefit, like lower risk of premature death. After adjusting for actors like demographics, education, and socioeconomic status, they assessed that higher-income and better-educated people tend to be in good health and are also more likely to take supplements.  Thus, after applying this adjustment, the4 longer-life association with supplements was no longer relevant.  

As such, it appears the study argues that the nutrients you get from supplements are not nearly as effective at improving health and increasing longevity as those gained from consuming natural foods.  

A University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy associate professor of epidemiology, Zhang added, “Based on the totality of evidence, it’s becoming more and more clear that the regular use of dietary supplements is not beneficial in reducing the risk of mortality among the general population in the U.S.”

Finally, she concluded, “But, we need more research to look at long-term use of supplements. It would also be worth exploring whether supplements might be helpful among those who have nutritional deficiencies.”

The results of this study have been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.