A team of French researchers studying the effects of vitamin supplements concluded the popular pills might be a waste of money.
The team studied 8,000 participants for a 6-year period. Some were given vitamins to take, and others were given placebos. The conclusion: The real-pill takers were at as much risk of developing cancer or heart disease as the fake-pill takers.
Catherine Collins, of St George’s Hospital in London, said many who use vitamins believe the pills are the key to the cure.
“It’s the worried-well who are taking these pills to try and protect themselves against Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks, and strokes,” Collins said. “But they are wasting their money. This was a large study following people up for a long period of time assessing everything from their mobility and blood pressure to whether they were happy or felt pain.”
Other studies revealed multivitamin supplements actually might be harmful and raise the risk of cancer.
Collins said the findings “reinforce the idea that if you’re worried about your health and start taking multivitamins, you will still be worried about it six years later.”
The information appeared in an article in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
“The perception that supplementation improves general well-being is not supported by this trial,” the article said.
The research team was led by experts at Nancy University who followed patients’ health records every day for the duration of the study. There was little difference among those who developed illnesses — 30.5 percent of patients who took vitamins, compared with 30.4 percent of patients who took placebos.
Dr. Carrie Ruxton, of the Health Supplements Information Service, countered the findings.
“The role of vitamin supplements is to prevent deficiencies and make sure people are receiving their recommended levels,” Dr. Ruxton said. “They won’t have a measurable impact on how you feel on a day-to-day basis, but what they are doing is topping up your recommended levels to the right amount. They are not meant to be a magic bullet.”