- Investing in nutritious, whole foods may have a more significant impact on longevity and overall health than taking dietary supplements.
- While vitamins A and K, magnesium, zinc, and copper have been shown to lower the risk of mortalities from heart disease, these benefits were only observed from nutrients absorbed through food, not supplements.
- Supplements, especially calcium at high doses, can potentially be harmful, with one study noting an increased risk of death with the intake of 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day from supplements.
- The body’s mechanism of nutrient absorption functions differently between supplements and food, potentially explaining why supplements don’t offer the same benefits.
- Vitamin supplementation may be necessary in certain circumstances, such as in those with specific dietary restrictions or nutrient deficiencies, but overall, nutrients should be sourced primarily from diet.
In hopes of boosting longevity, many individuals consume dietary supplements, however, an extensive new study indicates that it might be more beneficial to invest that cash in nutritious foods instead.
The study observed a connection between vitamins A and K, magnesium, zinc, copper, and a lower risk of death due to heart disease or stroke, as well as an overall lower risk of mortalitiy during the average six-year track record. However, these results held true only when these nutrients were absorbed from food, not supplements.
Understanding the Risks of Supplements
In contrast, the study found an alarming association between the intake of at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day through supplements and an increased risk of death – a risk not associated with calcium sourced from food.
“Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy balanced diet”
More than half of the population in the United States regularly consumes supplements. Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, a senior author in the study from the Tuft University School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston, emphasized that despite popular belief that supplements can maintain and improve health, the research reinforces that they offer little to no benefits.
Why Don’t Supplements Provide the Same Benefits?
Zhang explains that the different effects of nutrients in food compared to those in supplements could be a possible cause. In food, our bodies can control and limit nutrient absorption, a regulatory impact supplements lack. The body’s ability to absorb is distinct when it comes to supplements and natural sources of nutrients.
It’s important to note that this study focused on a generally healthy population, implying that the findings may not apply to those deficient in certain nutrients. There were more than 27,000 U.S. adult participants aged 20 or older, who shared information about their dietary supplement use and their diets.
The study reported that more than half of the participants acknowledged using at least one supplement. Vitamin C was the most widely used, followed by vitamin E, calcium, and vitamin D.
Are Supplements Necessary?
As Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian at NYU Langone Health, pointed out, no single nutrient can address all of our health concerns. Yet, certain scenarios necessitate supplementing certain vitamins or minerals. For instance, vegans may fall short on vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. And deficiencies in Vitamin D are a worldwide concern, even though there is ongoing debate on the adequate levels of vitamin D intake.
Supplement Intake in Balance
Supplements can help when necessary, but an excess of any nutrient can disrupt the delicate equilibrium our bodies strive to maintain. According to both experts, vitamins and minerals should mainly be sourced from our diets.
Importance of Whole Foods
It’s nearly impossible for supplements to encompass all of the beneficial compounds present in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains. These nutrients in sustenance work together towards enhancing our health and combating diseases.
For More Information
For further insights on dietary supplements, you can read this comprehensive guide from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.