In 2018, dietary supplements generated $152 billion worldwide. In Australia, on average 30% of men and 47% of women use at least on dietary supplement. In some groups, usage is even hgher, e.g. people with higher levels of education and income. Most users take supplements by personal choice rather than recommended by a doctor. But are supplements necessary?
A recent large study following 30,000 people for 20 years has found that dietary supplements are not associated with mortality benefits, i.e. they don’t make you live longer.
The study showed that the benefits from micronutrients came from food rather than pills. And some supplements were shown to be not only ineffective but risky at high doses. Excessive calcium supplement intake was linked with a higher risk of cancer death – and vitamin D supplements in people who were not vitamin D deficient were linked with a higher risk of all-cause death and cancer death.
If you’re healthy, experts advise nutrients are best sourced from natural foods, for example:
- Calcium (for healthy bones) is found in dairy foods, green leafy vegetables & sardines.
- Folic acid (for healthy cells) is found in spinach, beans & cereals.
- Iron (for healthy red blood cells) is found in green vegetables, nuts & seeds, & beans.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (for a healthy heart) found in salmon, sardines & walnuts.