Nutritional supplements would be useless for most healthy people

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The modern pace and lifestyle around the world makes it impossible to spend time preparing or buying fresh produce for every meal. In an attempt to fill nutritional gaps and maintain good health, many people are now turning to nutritional supplements. Depending on the circumstances and deficiency, these substances can be beneficial, but they can also be useless or even harmful to health, especially without a prescription. A new analysis by a US Public Health Service (USPSTF) research team has found that for healthy people, the benefits of a healthy diet cannot be obtained through supplementation. In short, in most cases it would be a waste of money and time.

Trace elements and vitamins are undeniably beneficial for health due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Found in fresh foods (fruits, vegetables, fish, milk, etc.), they can even prevent cancer and heart disease.

Many factors, including lack of time or financial means, can prevent access to a balanced diet. In addition, quality products such as organic produce are sometimes much more expensive than average, exacerbating the lack of access to healthy food. This trend is observed throughout the world and especially in developing countries.

Therefore, in an attempt to maintain good health, some people turn to nutritional supplements, especially those sold in pharmacies. Also, many of them tend to think that these supplements are harmless and often go without a doctor’s prescription. The toxicity and side effects of these substances are noticeably little studied compared to “real drugs”.

However, in wealthy countries, supplementation may be motivated by other goals such as diet for weight loss, maintaining muscle tone, hair care, etc. In the United States, for example, more than half of adults consume it for various reasons. Marketing budgets and profits from the sale of nutritional supplements run into the billions of dollars. In 2021, the sector reached $50 billion in sales with a marketing budget of $900 million.

Today, a group of experts from Northwestern University found that these substances do little to no health benefit, but rather can harm it, without a responsible recommendation. Some vitamins taken in excess, for example, can become toxic. New analyzes presented in the publication JAMA networkled to new recommendations.

Only take under the right circumstances

The reviews were conducted by a panel of 16 medical experts and included 84 studies on the use of dietary supplements. Of these, 54 have been published since the initial set of USPSTF recommendations in 2014.

After evaluations, experts specifically discourage the use of beta-carotene-based supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Whether isolated or artificially synthesized, this pigment (found in red and orange fruits and vegetables) can increase heart disease mortality and lung cancer risk. Vitamin E supplements are also not recommended as they will not provide a clear benefit in preventing these two diseases. In the case of multivitamins, there would also be no specific health benefits, although experts believe that the analyzes are not sufficiently data-driven.

For most vitamin and mineral supplements, including combinations such as multivitamins, we did not find sufficient evidence to recommend or not recommend their use in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer, with a few exceptions. says Michael Barry, vice president of the USPSTF.

What you need to know is that the vitamins and minerals found in fruits, vegetables, and milk are mixtures of complex chemical and natural fiber compounds and other nutrients that will work synergistically to provide health benefits. In addition, isolated micronutrients may act differently in the body if they are not coated with other synthetic substances, such as excipients. Osteopaths also recommend preferring dairy products to pills for calcium.

Taking nutritional supplements in most cases gives only a false sense of security (without a prescription). ” We have found that vitamins and supplements are unfortunately not a panacea for healthy Americans. says Jenny Jia, lead author of the analysis and researcher in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University.

However, these recommendations are only valid for healthy people and differ for pregnant women and people with a deficiency. Pregnant women, for example, are advised to take folic acid or vitamin B (up to 0.4–0.8 mg per day) to prevent neural tube defects. Iron is also recommended to prevent preterm labor and low birth weight, and to improve fetal brain development.

Source: JAMA Network.

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