NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Vitamins and other dietary supplements are a $30 billion per year industry, and half of all Americans take them.
But could you be wasting your money, or even hurting yourself? As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, a new study has indicated that the answer might be yes.
When people don’t get enough vitamins, they suffer diseases like scurvy and rickets. The question is not whether people need vitamins — they do.
But there are questions about how much people need, and whether they get enough in foods? There are also questions about getting a lot more vitamins than the minimum daily intake.
Debra Rapoport, 68, takes vitamins and minerals every day and has been doing so for most of her life.
“I take C, D and B-12,” Rapoport said.
Like Rapoport, many people believe daily supplements will keep them healthy.
But three new studies in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and a review by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, find no evidence that vitamin supplements protect against heart disease, cancer or death.
“People spend a lot of money, but there is really no evidence of benefit, and there is evidence of harm,” said Dr. Edgar Miller of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “Our recommendation is, don’t waste your money.”
The research also showed taking multi-vitamins long-term does not help with cognitive function in men, or protect patients after a heart attack.
But the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement trade group, disagreed with the latest review and argued supplements are an important option for consumers who are not getting enough nutrients from food.
Dr. Robert Graham agrees.
“There might be an argument to continue taking a multi, to replace or supplement your not-healthy diet,” Graham said.
And even though Rapoport eats healthy, she has no plans to stop taking the supplements.
“I have energy. I sleep well,” she said. “So I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The researchers did say the jury is still out on the health benefits of vitamin D and omega-3 supplements, which are usually taken as fish oil. There is evidence that many people are vitamin D deficient because of little sun exposure during the winter.
While most experts have agreed that it is best to get vitamins from real food, it is not clear that most Americans are getting a healthy, vitamin-rich diet. And taking vitamins in large doses can be harmful, experts said.
Experts also agree that vitamins will not compensate for a for a lousy diet or bad health habits.
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