A vitamin-a-day may do more harm than good

One of the few businesses that has benefitted from the current U.S. recession has been the dietary supplements industry. While some predicted that falling disposable income would hamper sales of vitamins and supplements, the opposite actually occurred: As more people lost their jobs and ability to pay for healthcare, many turned to supplements to remain healthy and ward off expensive doctor visits and pharmaceutical drugs. 

However, the results of two studies, published last week may signal a  reverse of the fortunes of this $30 billion per year industry.

Last week researchers from the Cleveland Clinic announced that vitamin E can enhance chances of prostate cancer. A study involving more than 35,000 men found that those who took a daily dose of 400 IU of vitamin E had a 17% increased incidence of prostate cancer than men who took a placebo.

For the typical man, there appears to be no benefit in taking vitamin E and, in fact, there may be some harm,” said Dr. Eric Klein, an internationally renowned prostate cancer expert who served as the national study coordinator.

This surprising news was followed in short order by a report that dietary supplements can also increase mortality rate in older women.

The Iowa Women’s Health Study, which started in 1986, set out to determine to what degree diet and other lifestyle factors influence risk of chronic disease.

By the end of the study period in 2008, a total of 41,836 postmenopausal women were investigated – of which 15,594 had died. Multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper were all associated with increased total mortality risk.  Supplemental iron was most strongly associated with increased mortality whereas, calcium supplements, were associated with a decreased risk.

Study leader Dr Lisa Harnack, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, said: “Among the elderly, use of supplements is widespread, often with the intention of attaining health benefits by preventing chronic diseases. Our study raises concerns regarding their long-term safety.”

SRxA’s Word on Health won’t be taking any chances. No more once-a-day for us!

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