Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a great way to get all the vitamins your body needs.
However, some people use supplements daily to achieve the same results, and it is generally believed that they can be used as a buffer against chronic illnesses as well.
But the long-term health consequences of many compounds are unknown.
A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine examined the use of vitamin supplements and the impact they can have on your body.
Researchers assessed the use of vitamin and mineral supplements against total mortality in 38,772 older women as part of the Iowa Women’s Health Study, Express reports.
The Iowa Women’s Health Study was designed to examine associations between several host, diet and lifestyle factors and the incidence of death.
Supplement consumption was self-reported in 1986, 1997 and 2004.
As of December 31, 2008, a total of 15,594 deaths (40.2%) have been identified through the State Health Registry of Iowa and the National Death Index.
What did the researchers find?
The use of multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper was associated with an increased risk of total mortality compared to the corresponding non-use.
However, calcium use was inversely related to a reduction in the absolute risk of death.
“In older women, several commonly used vitamin and mineral dietary supplements may be associated with an increased risk of total mortality,” the researchers concluded.
“This association is strongest with an iron supplement. Contrary to the conclusions of many studies, calcium is associated with a decreased risk.”
The results have been echoed in several studies, which suggest that there is no clear health benefit from taking vitamins and supplements.
A review published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine examined the results of randomized studies of multivitamin / mineral supplements and individual vitamin / mineral supplements in relation to overall mortality and incidence of chronic disease, particularly cancer and ischemic heart disease.
The results of large-scale randomized trials show that, for the majority of the population, there is no overall benefit from taking multivitamin / mineral supplements.
Indeed, some studies have shown an increased risk of cancer compared to the use of certain vitamins.
How to get all the vitamins you need
Most people should get all the nutrients they need from a varied and balanced diet, although some people may need to take additional supplements.
Vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin C, are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to function properly.
Many people choose to take supplements, but taking too much or too long can be harmful.
The Department of Health and Social Affairs recommends certain supplements for certain groups of people at risk of deficiency.
If you are pregnant, trying to have a baby, or could become pregnant, it is recommended that you take a folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms every day until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
Folic acid supplements should be taken before you get pregnant, so start taking them before you stop using birth control or if there is a risk that you will get pregnant.
“Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida,” notes the NHS.
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