Published on: December 1, 2011

Dr M Narendranathan, Gastroenterologist, writes:

Doc gave me a cocktail of vitamins and minerals to take each morningVitamin supplements associated with increased risk for death.

New findings from Iowa Women’s Health Study, published in October 2011, showed very few benefits if any of vitamin or mineral supplements. In fact, there was a suggestion of some risk associated with several of them.

The study followed more than 38,000 women, with an average age of 62, for up to 22 years. There were more than 15,000 deaths during the follow-up period. Vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and zinc were associated with about a 3%-6% increased risk for death, whereas copper was associated with an 18.0% increased risk for total mortality when compared with corresponding nonuse. In contrast, use of calcium was inversely related to risk for death

In her commentary on this study, Jo-Ann Manson, MD, said,

“This report serves as a cautionary tale about the potential risks related to dietary supplements and makes the point that more is not necessarily better. In the United States, about 50% of adults are currently taking 1 or more dietary supplements, and it is a $20-plus billion annual industry. But are consumers really getting value for the money spent?” 

Arch Intern Med. 2011;171:1625-1633,1633-1634.

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