Multivitamins and mineral supplements are taken right across the world by millions of people in the hope of aiding their health and preventing disease.
However, new research analysing more than two million people has found they won’t actually prevent heart attacks, strokes or cardiovascular disease at all – and the lead author of the study has now accused the giant industry of creating unnecessary “hype”.
Researchers from the University of Alabama analysed 18 studies of the nutritional supplements, and found no evidence that any of them could help prevent deaths from heart disease – despite each of them promoting their many health benefits.
In fact, the study, published in American Heart Association journal ‘Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes’, claimed people may be relying too much on supplements that aren’t actually helping, instead of focusing on proven health aids such as healthy eating and exercise.
“It has been exceptionally difficult to convince people, including nutritional researchers, to acknowledge that multivitamin and mineral supplements don’t prevent cardiovascular diseases,” lead author Dr Joonseok Kim, assistant professor of cardiology in the university’s department of medicine said.
“I hope our study findings help decrease the hype around multivitamin and mineral supplements and encourage people to use proven methods to reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases – such as eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising and avoiding tobacco.”
According to the study, the nutritional supplement industry will be worth more than US$278 billion (AU$374 billion) globally by 2024, and according to the United States Food and Drug Administration, the agency does not need to “approve” dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they’re sold on, unlike drugs.
While manufacturers are banned from making specific claims about the health benefits of the supplements on packaging, they can still make more general health claims – which could be seen as misleading for some consumers.
“Although multivitamin and mineral supplements taken in moderation rarely cause direct harm, we urge people to protect their heart health by understanding their individual risk for heart disease and stroke and working with a healthcare provider to create a plan that uses proven measures to reduce risk,” Kim added.
“These include a heart-healthy diet, exercise, tobacco cessation, controlling blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels, and when needed, medical treatment.”