Do vitamins have proven health benefits?

multivitamin-tabletsInteresting article in the Daily Mail on this subject.

A law change last December means health benefits  on supplements must have EU approval. But of more than 44,000 health claims submitted, just 248 have so far been authorised.

So is the supplement market just  a con? The answer, say experts, is  no – as long as you take them correctly, and for the right reason.

‘Essentially Which? has examined the claims on packaging and looked at whether they are EU-approved. But many supplements have long been recommended for specific reasons by doctors, based on scientific evidence.

‘Just because the EU hasn’t approved a health claim doesn’t mean it isn’t true,’ says Lucy Jones, consultant dietician and spokesman for British Dietetic Association. ‘So in some ways supplement companies have been dealt a harsh blow.

‘Now they need overwhelming scientific evidence from randomised controlled trials, which they don’t yet have. But there may well be proof in ten or 20 years.

Popular popping: More than a third of Britons regularly take supplements and spent £385 million on vitamins alone in 2012

‘I agree that companies shouldn’t say a product does something without proper evidence, but the problem is that most nutritional interventions don’t yet have adequate large-scale research. It would be wrong to interpret that as meaning they have no effect as some of these products are regularly prescribed by doctors and can very much help people’s health.’

The constant stream of conflicting research adds to the confusion. While last month a study found fish oils were associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer, last week  US researchers said it is effective in reversing liver disease in children with intestinal failure.

And there is a growing idea that supplements could even harm health. Last month an animal study found high doses of Vitamins C and E reduced lifespan by up to a quarter. And a review of studies into Vitamins A, E and C by Copenhagen University in 2007 suggested these appeared to increase risk of early death.

If you are on medication you should check with your doctor before taking a supplement as they can interact and cause problems.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, nutritionist and spokesman for the Health Supplements Information Service, says: ‘You should know why you are taking a supplement. And it is absolutely not the case that the more you take, the better. For instance, iron  or Vitamin A can treat specific illnesses, but high doses are toxic.’

To read more about what vitamins they suggest are best for you, read the rest of the article on the Daily Mail online.

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