Are These Supplements Killing Us?

by The Health Sciences Academy — Get free science updates here.

“Some supplements linked to increased risk of death”, reads a terrifying headline in The Guardian.

Of course, the moment I see something like this, my sceptic sense begins tingling…

First of all, which supplements are they talking about?

And even then, at what doses?

So, I delved into the data to find out for you.

This meta-analysis reviewed the risks of 15 vitamin and mineral supplements:

  • Vitamin A (retinol)
  • Beta-carotene (the body can convert this to active vitamin A)
  • B vitamins: B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6, and B9 (folic acid)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium

While most of these micronutrients are essential to survival, the researchers wanted to find out which of these vitamin and mineral supplements were associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, and all-cause mortality.

(Ironic, I know!).

So, what did they find?

Could one tiny vitamin supplement really spell doom for us?

Of the 15 high-dose supplements tested, a risk for all-cause mortality was found… But only for 2!

For those of you taking one of the other 13 in a multivitamin, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

But which supplements could be silent killers?

The researchers point the finger at both vitamin B3 (niacin) and mixtures of antioxidant vitamins.

Only certain antioxidant mixes and niacin with statins showed small risks. Folic acid and B-vitamins showed benefits (Jenkins et al., 2018).

Do you think I’m going to tell you to throw these supplements in the trash?

At The Health Sciences Academy, we take a fine-toothed comb to the science. And in this study we find that vitamin B3 is only a risk factor when combined with a certain medicine called a statin, not on its own!

Not to mention, the supposed risk for antioxidants is really low… And the meta-analysis was an “apples and pears” comparison of different antioxidant mixes without much detail, meaning we don’t even know which might be responsible, or at what dose.

What do I suggest? One of the best ways to get antioxidants is to add lots of lovely greens and fruit into your diet. Studies consistently show that this is linked to a lower mortality.

But there are still important considerations to make when choosing supplements that are right for you or a client…

Taking the wrong supplements, doses, or combinations might lower their effectiveness, waste your money, or potentially cause harm. For example, if you don’t take them right, antioxidants can become harmful pro-oxidants.

You can mitigate the risk of wrong supplementary advice with our in-depth training here – where we also show you how to personalise a supplemental program for each client.

If you want to get the latest science and our tips, make sure you sign up to our emails HERE.

Alex Ruani, Doctoral Researcher, leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where her team of accomplished scientists and PhDs are training a new breed of over 100,000 highly-specialised nutrition professionals who are leveraging the latest personalisation strategies to help their clients. She is a Harvard-trained scientist and UCL Doctoral Researcher who is fanatical about equipping health professionals with the latest science-based tools so they can succeed in their practices – from identifying the unique nutrient needs to building highly personalised nutrition programs. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition biochemistry, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free email updates.

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