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According to data analysis, only vitamins from real food are healthy. Too much calcium from dietary supplements is even harmful.

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Vitamins and minerals from dietary supplements taken together do not affect mortality. It is the result of a large epidemiological study in the USA. Some vitamins (A, K) and minerals (magnesium, zinc) are associated with a lower mortality rate. They can only obtain through the regular diet, but not through dietary supplements.

A study published by Fang Fang Zhang research group (Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts) in “Annals of Internal Medicine.”

Data from nearly 30,000 Americans

The researchers linked statistical data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) research program from 1999 to 2010 with the US National Death Registry. More than 27,000 adult Americans, provided information on their diet and use of dietary supplements in NHANES. The scientists collected the vitamins and minerals ingested with food regardless of the amounts in the supplements. In this way, they were able to assign the dose of individual nutrients to the source (food or supplements).

Vitamins: do you need supplements?

In the first model, the data adjust for influences of age, gender, and ethnicity. The intake of dietary supplements still showed a clear correlation with a lower mortality rate. However, when Zhang and colleagues adjusted the data for further potential influencing factors, the statistically significant links disappeared. These factors include lifestyle characteristics, such as income, alcohol consumption, smoking, exercise, and others.

Complex interactions

Among the most relevant results is the link found between the risk of death and vitamin supply. According to a study, a sufficient intake of vitamin K and magnesium associated with a lower overall risk of death. With adequate vitamin A, vitamin K, and zinc intake, the risk of death from cardiovascular disease is more moderate.

However, an increased risk of cancer is related to excessive calcium intake. The researchers show that the consumption of these vitamins and minerals is only beneficial to health if they come from regular food. Calcium can even become dangerous if ingested in quantities of more than 1000 milligrams per day from dietary supplements. There was no such risk for calcium from food.


“It is important to understand the role of a nutrient and its source in health development. Especially when the effects are not beneficial,” explains Zhang. The complex interactions between nutrients play an essential role in determining health outcomes.


Another weakness of the study is the short period during which dietary supplements administered (24-hour protocols.) Furthermore, intake and dosage based on self-collected data susceptible to variation.

No watering can principle for vitamins

Margrit Richter, from German Society for Nutrition in Bonn, regards the study as confirmation: It is an illustration of years of experience with dietary supplements. “It makes no sense to supply your body with vitamins and minerals according to the watering can principle.” Who has no lack, can do without it. In any case, the income should clarify with a physician. According to Richter, specific preparations recommends for some population groups, such as B12 supplements for vegans, vitamin D, and vitamin K for infants. Food supplements may also be useful for some conditions.


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Stefan Kabisch ( German Institute for Nutrition Research in Potsdam-Rehbrücke ) criticizes the methodology of the study: “For recording the diet, only a 24-hour protocol of the participants created. Besides, they were already classified as users of dietary supplements if they had taken preparation during the last 30 days. “Despite a kong observation period, it is only a point-based data collection,” emphasizes Kabisch. He believes that the study does not bring the discussion about the use of food supplements much further.

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