The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) is countering claims in a U.S medical journal editorial that vitamins and mineral supplements are mostly ineffective and consumers should “stop wasting money” on them.
The editorial, “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is based on three studies that looked at the effects of multivitamins on preventing heart attacks and cancer, as well as improving cognitive function in men over 65.
The editorial concludes that most mineral and vitamin supplements have no clear benefit, could even be harmful in healthy adults who do not have nutritional deficiencies, and should not be used for chronic disease prevention.
“The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided,” reads the editorial, signed by two researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a British researcher, and one of the journal’s senior editors.
The researchers advise supplement users to trade vitamins for more fruits and vegetables; reduce how much trans fat, saturated fat, and sodium they eat; cut back on calories; and increase physical activity.
But the CHFA says many Canadians continue to suffer from nutritional deficiencies because of an inadequate or inappropriate intake of food, which can be aided by supplements.
“Misleading editorials like the one published today in Annals of Internal Medicine are a disservice to the 7 in 10 Canadians who benefit from natural health products every day,” Helen Sherrard, president of the Canadian Health Food Association, said in a statement Tuesday.
“CHFA recommends that people take multivitamins for overall health and wellness and to bridge nutrient gaps,” said Sherrard, adding that Health Canada requires all natural health products authorized for sale in Canada to demonstrate their effectiveness.
“There is clear scientific evidence that multivitamins work for those purposes and that’s why the majority of Canadians who are not sure they are getting everything they need from their diet should consider taking a multivitamin.”
The organization notes that the studies cited in the editorial are based on a study of male doctors over the age of 65; a study where almost half of participants stopped taking the multivitamin during the study; and a review concluding that multivitamin intake actually reduced cancer risk in men.
About 40 percent of adult Canadians take supplements, according to Statistics Canada.