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  • Over 50 percent of Americans take a daily dose of either one vitamin or dietary/nutritional supplement.

    Over 50 percent of Americans take a daily dose of either one vitamin or dietary/nutritional supplement. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 July 2019

People should focus on a heart-healthy diet because the data shows that healthy adults don't need to take supplements, said Erin D. Michos, M.D., M.H.S.

After 277 randomized, clinical trials, researchers from the John Hopkins Institute determined that occassional dieting, or broad vitamin, mineral, and nutrient supplements do not ensure a longer life or protection from heart disease.

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Through 24 different interventions, medical researchers discovered that although there was no harm in temporary dieting or using supplements that include a wide range of vitamins, the only real health benefit came from long-term low-salt diets, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, and— in certain cases—a folic acid supplement.

The study’s senior author, Erin D. Michos, M.D., M.H.S., said, "The panacea or magic bullet that people keep searching for in dietary supplements isn't there."

Researchers reviewed the following diets: the Mediterranean, the reduced saturated fat, the modified dietary fat intake, reduced fat, reduced salt diet (for the healthy and those with high blood pressure), and increased omega-6 fatty acid. 

These vitamin supplements were also tested: vitamin A, vitamin B3/niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D alone, calcium alone, calcium and vitamin D together, folic acid, iron, omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil), antioxidants, ?-carotene, vitamin B-complex, multivitamins and selenium.

The results were rated by strength from high to very low risk impact. Although no real benefits could be traced, the analysis did show that combining calcium and vitamin D could increase the risk of a stroke. In the three studies of 3,518 people total on a low-salt diet, there was a 10 percent decrease in the risk of death, which the researchers classified as a moderate associated impact.

"People should focus on getting their nutrients from a heart-healthy diet, because the data increasingly show that the majority of healthy adults don't need to take supplements," Michos said, who also works as an associate professor of medicine at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and as the associate director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

Safi U. Khan, M.D., lead study author and an assistant professor of Medicine at West Virginia University, said, “Our analysis carries a simple message that although there may be some evidence that a few interventions have an impact on death and cardiovascular health, the vast majority of multivitamins, minerals and different types of diets had no measurable effect on survival or cardiovascular disease risk reduction.”

Over 50 percent of U.S. residents take a daily dose of either one vitamin or dietary/nutritional supplement, Center for Disease Control and Prevention surveys show. Patients there also spend a total of US$31 billion a year in over-the-counter products.

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