Science Says Supplements Don't Work

Science Says Supplements Don't Work

A 2013 editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine was blisteringly direct about supplements. "The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided." The piece summarized the state of research on vitamin and mineral supplements, showing that the majority are completely ineffective and some, such as beta-carotene, vitamin E, and high doses of vitamin A, actually increase your chances of dying prematurely. The appeal of supplements is understandable, since it's hard to find time to plan meals based on vitamin intake. The good news is that for most of us, supplementation isn't necessary. In 2012, the CDC reported that less than 10% of the US population has even a single vitamin deficiency; if you eat a varied diet, you probably already get everything you need. Still, not all supplements are useless: there is scientific evidence to support taking vitamin B12 (especially for vegetarians and vegans), folic acid (in pregnant women), and vitamin D.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    A vitamin is a molecule our bodies need to help us carry out certain reactions and behaviors. (0:45)

  • 2

    Not all vitamins are always useful, like vitamin C, which works when consumed naturally but not in pill form. (2:59)

  • 3

    Some extra vitamin doses can actually increase the risks to events it is supposed to be protecting, such as cancer or heart disease. (3:29)

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