An investigation into the effects of vitamins and supplements has lead to troubling claims abut their quality and safety.
A joint investigation by the New York Times and the PBS Frontline program found that some vitamins and supplements are dangerous and can have harmful effects on anyone who takes them, reports the ABC.
“We love the notion of a magic pill. It’s something that makes it all better. It’s just too seductive,” paediatrician Paul Offit, from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said.
But questioned why so many people were taking the pills in the first place.
“You need vitamins to live. The question is, do you get enough in food? And I think the answer to that question is yes,” Dr Offit said.
“Then you look on the back [of product bottles] and you find that a number of these vitamins are contained in amounts that are much greater than the recommended daily allowance.
“Now there are studies done showing if you take a mega vitamin, you actually can hurt yourself.
“You actually can increase your risk of cancer, increase your risk of heart disease. I think few people know the risks they’re taking.”
In particular, the investigation focussed on the science surrounding vitamin D, vitamin E and fish oil and found results that raised concerns.
Fish oil has long been hailed as a ‘magic pill’ that could prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.
The Frontline report also examined the science surrounding vitamin D, vitamin E and fish oil.
Fish oil has been widely taken as a supplement in the belief it could prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular disease, but after examining studies from a range of prestigious scientific journals, epidemiologist Andrew Grey, from the University of Auckland, argued differently.
“I think for cardiovascular disease, one has to say there is no compelling evidence that taking fish oil protects against the first heart attack, or a second heart attack,” Dr Grey said.
“People who are advised to do that, or are doing it, are wasting their time and their money.”
Some dietary supplements were found to be causing major liver damage, with brand OxyElite found to have caused serious damage to 70 people.
Dr Herbert Bonkovsky, who researches liver damage, said he is concerned about the damage these so-called health products can do.
“This has been sort of the fastest-growing kind of liver injury that we’re observing in the drug-induced liver injury network,” he said.
“The frequency with which we see this has roughly tripled in the past 10 years.”
Researchers are urging people to cut back on their vitamin and supplements intake or cut it out all together and get nutrients from food instead.