Are Dietary Supplements Good or Bad?
There’s a study that suggests the increased risk of death in older women who consume supplements like iron and folic acid or vitamin B6.
Many Americans turn to dietary supplements believing that it can help them avoid becoming sick. But, there’s no certainty about the future consequences of taking these compounds.
Which Dietary Supplements increase death risks?
Nutritional epidemiologist Jaakko Mursu at the University of Eastern Finland mentioned the concern of their study regarding the use of some dietary supplements. His team of researchers advises people to think carefully whether they really need supplements or if a healthy diet is enough.
The Iowa Women’s Health study involved about 39,000 women aged 62 years old on average. The researchers followed the supplement use and progress of the women for over 19 years to find the connection between death and dietary supplement intake. With an increase in supplement use from 63 percent of women in 1986 to 85 percent of women in 2004, 15,594 women died.
Based on the results of the study, only calcium supplements appear to reduce the risk of death. The other supplements including folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc increased the risk of death.
Among the mentioned supplements, iron was found to highly increase the risk of death. As a woman ages, it takes just a little amount of iron to increase the risk of death.
Are Dietary Supplements Still Worth Taking?
In view of the above findings, it must be noted that Mursu’s research is just one study that saw the association of death to supplement use. It, however, does not disprove the health benefits that drinking the supplements provide.
Duffy Mackay, an officer at the Council for Responsible Nutrition defends supplements and says that using such actually help people become healthier. It’s not right to overstate the potential risk of taking supplements and understate its benefits.
Deficiency or Toxicity?
In reality, people need supplements because diet cannot provide all the nutrients needed. That’s why individuals have to consider the food they eat and know which nutrients they lack.
Today, instead of taking supplements to address deficiency, people are looking at prevention of illness and keeping healthy.
Most consumers have the belief that taking vitamins and minerals is safe. This thinking must be corrected because taking insufficient or excess quantities of micronutrients has risks.
Advice for Optimal Health
The best way to stay healthy and avoid illness is still to eat a variety of healthy foods and not taking vitamins and minerals as supplements. Remember that a low intake of essential supplements can cause deficiency; while a high intake can cause toxicity.
Samantha Heller, another nutrition expert at the Center for Cancer Care in Derby, Connecticut’s Griffin Hospital says that vitamin and mineral supplementation should not be used to undo the ill effects of poor diet. Again, eat a healthy diet with fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Photo credits: “Bell curve of intake versus health effect” by Mikael Häggström, (Public Domain). Licensed under CC0 via Commons