Do supplements actually make us healthier?

Welcome back to another blog post! This week, I want to talk about supplements, if they really help us or are we just wasting our money on them?

More than half of U.S. adults take dietary supplements. But does popping all of these vitamins, minerals, and other substances really lead to a longer, healthier life?

Based on an analysis of survey data gathered from more than 27,000 people over a six-year period, the NIH-funded study found that individuals who reported taking dietary supplements had about the same risk of dying as those who got their nutrients through food. What’s more, the mortality benefits associated with adequate intake of vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, and copper were limited to food consumption. 

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, also uncovered some evidence suggesting that certain supplements might even be harmful to health when taken in excess. For instance, people who took more than 1,000 milligrams of supplemental calcium per day were more likely to die of cancer than those who didn’t. While the overall evidence had suggested no benefits or harms, results of a limited number of studies had suggested that high doses of certain supplements could be harmful in some cases. 

Nutrient intake from foods was also assessed. Each year, the study’s participants were asked to recall what they’d eaten over the last 24 hours. The researchers then used that information to calculate participants’ nutrient intake from food. Those calculations indicated that more than half of the study’s participants had inadequate intake of vitamins D, E, and K, as well as choline and potassium.

Over the course of the study, more than 3,600 of the study’s participants died. Those deaths included 945 attributed to cardiovascular disease and 805 attributed to cancer. The next step was to look for any association between the nutrient intake and the mortality data.

The researchers found the use of dietary supplements had no influence on mortality. People with adequate intake of vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, and copper were less likely to die. However, that relationship only held for nutrient intake from food consumption.

The researchers did initially see an association between the use of dietary supplements and a lower risk of death due to all causes. However, those associations vanished when they accounted for other potentially confounding factors. 

For example, study participants who reported taking dietary supplements generally had a higher level of education and income. They also tended to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. They ate more nutritious food, were less likely to smoke or drink alcohol, and exercised more. So, it appears that people who take dietary supplements are likely to live a longer and healthier life for reasons that are unrelated to their supplement use.

So, NO, supplements do not make us healthier! It’s the food and the lifestyle that does. Would I as a Health Coach and Fitnesstrainer suggest my clients to take supplements? No, not without getting blood work done and checking if there is actually a deficiency! And even then, I would first try to get all vitamins and nutrients from food.

I recents got my blood checked and have a deficiency in vitamin B12. I eat plant based and mainly vegan and am now supplementing B12 because it is not possible to receive the amount needed from plants. But there are vegans which don’t have a deficiency in vitamin B12 and they are not supplementing as well so it really depends on the body and never forget, everyone is different!

OK, I hope you found this blog post helpful and it might save you some money! If you have further questions or need help to transition to a plant based diet – don’t hesitate to contact me 🙂

As a Health Coach, I am mentoring my clients to create and maintain long-term lifestyle changes to enhance their overall quality of life. In addition to supporting clients with specific goals, I empower my clients to choose health-promoting behaviors that work for them. I raise awareness and offer support as clients move in their own bio-individual ways toward the greater health they want for themselves. My coaching hopefully leads to long-term behavior change, but only because I help my clients do the meaningful work that forms a strong foundation.

How can I help you? Are there any changes you wish for yourself? Is your health the best it could be? You can book your free consultation with me now: