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Supplements don’t help with healthy aging

September 15, 2012 Reviewed by Marta 5 Comments
September is Healthy Aging Month and an excuse to consider whether vitamin pill popping – and other oral supplements touted to promote health – is really good for our health. As we get older, we become increasingly concerned about vitamin deficiencies and believe that supplementation is necessary to age healthfully. However, there is an increasing body of research that suggests supplements may do more harm than good.

Omega-3 pills and antioxidants are widely thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. My doctor prescribed me vitamin D and B12 and many women take calcium for strong bones. But recent evidence casts doubt on whether those supplements are as safe or effective as assumed.

A study recently published in New England Journal of Medicine nixed the widely held view that fish-oil pills help prevent cardiovascular disease. Over six years, 12,500 people with diabetes or prediabetes and a high risk of heart attack or stroke were studied and it turned out that there was no difference in the death rate from cardiovascular disease or other outcomes between those given a 1-gram fish-oil pill every day and those given a placebo.

Meanwhile, calcium supplements were found by German and Swiss researchers who followed almost 24,000 adults for an average of 11 years to be potentially more harmful than helpful. They found that regular users of calcium supplements had an 86% increased heart-attack risk compared with those who didn’t use supplements, as reported in the June 2012 issue of the journal Heart.

Scientists accidentally discovered that mega doses of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E can increase the risk of genetic abnormalities in cells, which may actually lead to cancer rather than prevent it. The researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute were quick to point out that the risk of cancer is associated with antioxidant supplements and not the antioxidants found naturally in foods.

Earlier research on the impact of antioxidants on cancer have been mixed. In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, for example, scientists could not find any benefits in the prevention of cancer from taking vitamin C, E, or beta-carotene supplements.

The Mayo Clinic has also conducted a systematic review of available research and concluded that, overall, antioxidant supplementation did not reduce the risk of cancer. Beta carotene supplements actually found to increase the risk of smoking-related cancers, as well as cancer mortality, and thus should be avoided, especially by tobacco users. Vitamin E was neither beneficial nor harmful. Selenium supplementation was found to lower the risk of cancer in men, but not in women.

Of even more concern is the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which analyzed data on 38,772 women with an average age 61.6. The study followed them for nearly 20 years from 1986 and 2004 and concluded that calcium supplements, multivitamins and supplements of vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper and especially iron were all associated with greater risk of dying.

Not long ago, I looked at supplements and skincare and couldn’t find much to substantiate taking astaxanthin or pine bark supplements. Sea buckthorn came out a bit better.

What scientists do agree on is that food high in antioxidants is hugely beneficial. And in a future article, I’ll show you that right from your store cupboard or fridge it isn’t difficult to find foods that will help you age healthily and beautifully.
  • September 23, 2012

    by Danny

    I use New Chapter supplements and they have helped me so much . The zyflamend anti inflammitory product helps so much with pain and a side effect was it seemed to purify my skin from the inside out . There have been many studies on the effects of lycopene and Astaxanthin and skin cells how they protect from UVA and UVB . Tests showed people who had 2 dessertspoon fulls of tomato paste or a lycopene supplement had far more resilient skin after exposure to the sun . My hair went all yukky after my operations so i started to take MSM snd a good B vitamin and my hair has never been so good in its texture . so i really think if we take supplements that are made from food sources we can work wonders but as with everything it all takes time . be well xxxx danny l

  • September 21, 2012

    by elena

    I forgot to mention pre and probiotics. There is no doubt they work. If you've ever taken antibiotics without using pre and probiotics at the same time then you'd know what i'm talking about.
    My point is, it's not a blanked statement, i.e supplements are bad for you. We just have to be very careful and do our research about each particular supplement we're interested in.

  • September 21, 2012

    by elena

    A lot of the supplements they studied are the ones taken as a single supplement manufactured in a laboratory. Natural WHOLE supplements, like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon (the water soluble form so it doesn't contain coumarin) offer great anti-oxidant, blood pressure and cholesterol reducing benefits. I agree, calcium, iron copper, zinc are a bad idea to take, especially the first two as calcium is not easily absorbed and what stays creates calcium deposits around your joints and later on, if continued, around your heart. Iron in particular is a great oxidizer and ages you tremendously. I'm borderline anemic, but i'd rather enjoy a beef burger or two twice a week than take it as a supplement.
    There are are a lot of superfoods in their complete form sold as powder, for example, acai berry powder etc, and concentrated juices like pomegranate juice which i take every day since it is STRONGLY linked to protecting women from breast cancer.
    As far as astaxanthin goes, it's tricky because it can lower calcium serum levels, but on the other hand it's extremely effect against cataracts, so much so that the FDA is considering labeling it as a drug. In Europe, it is widely recommended by eye specialists. My mother had the initial stages of cataracts and i've been giving her 5mg of astaxanthin for the past 5 months. No sign of cataracts per her last examination yesterday.

  • September 19, 2012

    by Anne Golder

    Have always wondered if they are actually doing me any good or not. Vitamin D seems to be the latest wonder supplement. Was interested to hear your views, and will look forward to your next posting. Of course, we have always been told that getting our nutrients from our food is the ideal, but of course, how fresh is the food we get these days. Unless you grow it yourself or buy organic, there is a question mark.

  • September 15, 2012

    by Teri Dourmashkin

    This is a real eye-opener! Look forward to your posting a follow-up to this.

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