No mortality benefit from dietary supplements … says Harvard and Tufts


The issue of whether routine use of dietary supplements has any meaningful therapeutic benefit has long been a controversial issue (and we don’t expect that to change as a result of what appears below, but …)

In a study of data from nearly 31,000 adults of 20 or more years of age, living in the US, and enrolled in the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) study from 1999 to 2010, Chen et al. have now reported (in the Annals of Internal Medicine) that:

Use of dietary supplements is not associated with mortality benefits among U.S. adults.

Specifically, they state further that:

During a median follow-up of 6.1 years, 3613 deaths occurred, including 945 [cardiovascular] deaths and 805 cancer deaths. Ever-use of dietary supplements was not associated with mortality outcomes. Adequate intake (at or above the Estimated Average Requirement or the Adequate Intake level) of vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, and copper was associated with reduced all-cause or [cardiovascular] mortality, but the associations were restricted to nutrient intake from foods. Excess intake of calcium was associated with increased risk for cancer death …

We would note that we have not seen the full text of this article and so we are under-informed about the details of this study and this particul;ar report. However, as one might imagine, it has immediately generated comment in media like The New York Times and Forbes.

In the interests of our own life expectancy, we’ll let others fight over exactly how to interpret these data. Whatever we were to say, it would be bound to upset someone (and probably several someones). The dietary supplements industry will undoubtedly find ways to suggest that the data are based on an extraordinarily badly conducted study (but of course the dietary supplements industry has never conducted a randomized, double blind trial of anything).

 

One Response

  1. This will fall on deaf ears, as all of these dietary supplement stories do. Most men with PCa take vitamin D3 supplements despite numerous studies showing no benefit. Understandably, folks just like to feel like they are doing something proactive to improve their odds.

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