Multivitamins and supplements are unlikely to benefit the ‘worried well’, new research suggests 


Multivitamins and supplements are unlikely to benefit the ‘worried well’, new research suggests

  • Study of 21,600 people found no measurable improvements from taking pills 
  • Scientists said benefits are from the ‘positive expectation’ of effectiveness  
  • The supplements industry is worth billions of pounds globally  

They are taken each day by millions of Britons in the belief they will boost health.

But research suggests any benefits to the ‘worried well’ from vitamin pills and mineral supplements may all be in the mind.

A study of 21,600 people found there was no measurable clinical improvements between those who took supplements and those who did not. 

Scientists said any benefits are explained by the ‘positive expectation’ of effectiveness, rather than hard evidence – and most people who take the products are the ‘worried well’, who are already healthier than others.

A study of 21,600 people found there was no measurable clinical improvements between those who took supplements and those who did not (stock picture)

The supplements industry is worth billions of pounds globally. Up to 24million Britons – 46 per cent of adults – pop daily vitamin pills. Experts accept that supplements can be crucial if someone has a known vitamin or mineral deficiency.

But a series of clinical trials has failed to identify health benefits for those who do not have such a deficiency. 

The latest study, led by Harvard University in the US, questioned participants about their health, including routine daily activities and medical history. 

A total of 5,000 said they regularly took supplements and 16,660 did not. Those who took multivitamins and minerals reported 30 per cent better overall health than those who did not.

Scientists said any benefits are explained by the 'positive expectation' of effectiveness, rather than hard evidence – and most people who take the products are the 'worried well', who are already healthier than others (stock picture)

Scientists said any benefits are explained by the ‘positive expectation’ of effectiveness, rather than hard evidence – and most people who take the products are the ‘worried well’, who are already healthier than others (stock picture)

However, there was no difference between those who did and did not take them in any of five psychological, physical or ‘functional’ health outcomes. Researchers suggested this implies supplement users ‘believe in the efficacy of multivitamins and minerals by harbouring a positive expectation regarding the health benefits’.

The findings suggest that people who are already healthy – and pay a lot of interest to health – are more likely to take supplements.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, of the industry-funded Health & Food Supplements Information Service, said: ‘Supplements are for topping up nutrients in people who want to achieve recommended dietary requirements and should not be viewed as quasi-drugs for treating or preventing disease.’

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