IF a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine downplaying the benefits of vitamins released last month left you clearing out your nutrient stash, you might want to have a rethink.
A new review published in the journal Nutrients indicates that most large, clinical trials of vitamin supplements — whether they conclude that vitamins are not beneficial or even harmful — have flawed methodology, making these studies useless. While the analysis focused on problems with studies on vitamin C, scientists say the findings are relevant to a wide range of vitamins.
Health professionals and associations, including the U.S. Council for Responsible Nutrition, all agree that it’s best to get nutrients by consuming a nutritious diet. But the reality is most people don’t eat as healthfully as they should for a variety of factors, such as budget and time constraints, and concern that healthy foods aren’t tasty.
"More than 90 per cent of U.S. adults don’t get the required amounts of vitamins D and E for basic health," said Balz Frei, director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, in a news release. "More than 40 per cent don’t get enough vitamin C, and half aren’t getting enough vitamin A, calcium and magnesium. Smokers, the elderly, people who are obese, ill or injured often have elevated needs for vitamins and minerals."
So while there’s growing consensus that taking vitamins isn’t necessary for those regularly enjoying nutrient-packed foods, supplementation is still recommended for those with a poor diet, and research suggesting that it’s not could negatively impact those who most need it.
The Nutrients journal review points out that many studies assessing vitamins employ the same approach used for studying powerful prescription drugs. Frei said the result is that the conclusions of these studies have little scientific meaning, even less accuracy and often defy a wealth of other evidence.
Frei adds that until the methodology for micronutrients research is changed, the flawed findings will continue.
So for the average person eating a nutrient-deficient diet, Frei offers this nutrition nugget: "It’s fine to tell people to eat better, but it’s foolish to suggest that a multivitamin which costs a nickel a day is a bad idea."
— Postmedia Network Inc. 2014