Are vitamins a waste of money?

There’s no ‘magic set of pills to keep you healthy.’ Diet and exercise are key: Study

Drawn to the allure of multivitamins and dietary supplements filling nutritional gaps in their diet, people in the US in 2021 spent close to $50 billion on vitamins and dietary supplements.

But Northwestern Medicine scientists say for non-pregnant, otherwise healthy Americans, vitamins are a waste of money because there isn’t enough evidence they help prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer.

“Patients ask all the time, ‘What supplements should I be taking?’ They’re wasting money and focus thinking there has to be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be following the evidence-based practices of eating healthy and exercising,” said Dr. Jeffrey Linder, chief of general internal medicine in the department of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Eating fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, so it is reasonable to think key vitamins and minerals could be extracted from fruits and vegetables, packaged into a pill, and save people the trouble and expense of maintaining a balanced diet. But, whole fruits and vegetables contain a mixture of vitamins, phytochemicals, fiber and other nutrients that probably act synergistically to deliver health benefits. Micronutrients in isolation may act differently in the body than when naturally packaged with a host of other dietary components.

Individuals who have a vitamin deficiency can still benefit from taking dietary supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, which have been shown to prevent fractures and maybe falls in older adults. Also, certain vitamins, such as folic acid, are essential for pregnant women to support healthy feotal development.

image credit- shutterstock

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