Walk into the doors of any vitamin shop and you'll find a plethora of supplements for ailments of all kinds, but researchers say they could do more harm than good.
“It’s a big business. It’s a big scam on the American people as far as I’m concerned,” said Dr. Alan Kristal with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Kristal says people need to pay attention to a paper published this week in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study, which began in 1986, followed 38,772 women. Of those, 15,594 died of cardio vascular disease or cancer within 19 years.
Previous studies have raised questions about the value of supplements and vitamins, but researchers and nutrition experts say this is the first that shows a mortality risk.
“There is no benefit and you always have this possibility that there is harm and the more we look, the more we see there is harm,” said Dr. Kristal.
Those in the supplement industry disagree.
“These are essential nutrients that are required daily for our bodies,” said John Kenny with Super Supplements.
Kenny feels it’s important for people to take vitamins.
“The standard American diet is lacking in nutrition. In a multi-vitamin mineral is foundational nutrition. It’s a way to make sure you’re meeting your basic needs,” said Kenny.
Dr. Kristal says that’s not true.
“Our foods are fortified. Even the foods we think of as junk food like a pastry has fortified flour. Even ketchup is fortified. All these foods are full of micro-nutrients. It’s very difficult to avoid not getting as much as you need,” said Kristal.
Dr. Kristal also worked on a study released Tuesday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, links Vitamin E to increased risk of prostate cancer in men. Researchers found a significant trend among the 35,000 participants.
"Men who took Vitamin E alone at 400 IU’s a day in addition to a normal diet were at a 17% higher risk of developing prostate cancer," said Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic.
Researchers in these studies say supplements should only be used on a medical basis, after talking to your doctor. Of all the supplements in the study, researchers found that Calcium was the one that is beneficial for women to take.
About half of adults in the U.S. take a multivitamin. Annual vitamin and supplement sales total more than $20 billion.