Put the One A Days Down and Slowly Walk Away …

A new study says nutritional supplements are gonna kill you. Yikes!

Photograph by Paul Tearle

I try to be healthy, I really truly do. For instance. When I was pregnant with my kids, I took the prenatal vitamins my ob-gyn prescribed for me, even though they were the size of Oreos. (They did not taste like Oreos.) I kept on taking vitamins after I was done having kids, though I switched to a smaller version. Mostly, I wanted the extra calcium. (I don’t like milk.) And I figured those extra doses of vitamins A and C and K and E, the magnesium and selenium and iron, could only help. Right? Right, gigantic money-making vitamin industry?

Um. It seems my supplements have been hurting, not helping. At least, that’s the result of a new study out of the University of Minnesota, reported in the LA. Times. Researchers there who looked at 39,000 older women over nearly a decade say that those who used multivitamins and supplements died at a younger age than those who didn’t.

Oddly, the women who took the supplements seemed healthier than those who abstained—for example, they were less likely to have diabetes or high blood pressure, and they had lower BMIs. Still, they died younger. The only supplement without this notable side effect was calcium, which does appear to reduce death risk.

The director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition points out that cause and effect are tough to prove from such a study, and advised against anyone dropping vitamins or supplements solely on its basis. In counterpoint, the Times quotes dietician Bonnie Jotberg of the University of Colorado’s school of medicine: “Millions of people take these [vitamins], but there don’t appear to be a lot of benefits.” Nationwide, we spend $27 billion a year on vitamins and supplements. Maybe we ought to use that to pay down the national debt.

Related: Seven Essential Vitamins and the Foods that Have Them