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Supplements: a waste of money?

Supplements

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The debate over vitamin supplements has been raging for many years, but new evidence suggests that people might be wasting their money.

As a nation, one third of adults in the UK take a nutritional supplement and annually spend a staggering £650 million on supplements, including £138.6m on multivitamins, and £35.9m on vitamin C alone, citing reasons ranging from improving joints (36%), improving memory (5%) and protecting the heart (19%) as their justification for such an expense.

But academics from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Warwick have concluded that evidence suggests the “supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults….has no clear benefit and might even be harmful”. Three recent research papers, one of which analysed previous trials involving 450,000 people, found no beneficial effect on mortality from taking vitamins, no benefit slowing cognitive decline, and no impact on heart problems. The scientists concluded that not only was using supplements not justified, some such as Beta-carotene and Vitamin E could be harmful.

Their argument is that most of our diets are adequate and we therefore gain all we need from the food we eat, in fact as they argue many people over-eat. The Health Food Manufacturers’ Association which represents the supplement manufacturers argues that there are pockets of low vitamin intake both in the UK and other European countries, and that their products provide “important nutritional insurance.”

This comes at a time when the UK Government are considering making the inclusion of folic acid in bread compulsory, so the disagreement as to the value of supplementing our diets rages on.

There is an alternative. Simon Cowell and Gary Lineker have been rumoured to have tried an intravenous “cocktail of vitamin infusions” offered by private clinics. At £225 a pop, it’s not a financial viable option for most of us, and no doubt some scientists would be doubtful as to its benefits.

Whilst the arguments will continue to rage over the physical and psychosomatic benefits of pill popping, predictably the key here in eating a well balanced, well nourished diet that includes proper hydration.

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