Food better than supplements for longevity

Calcium supplements linked to cancer in major study

They can't prove if the nutrients from food can lengthen your life, but people who adopt healthy diets live longer.

But when the researchers considered the source of these nutrients - food vs supplements - only nutrients from food were tied to a lower risk of death from any cause or heart disease.

From the evidence gathered, it's becoming more clear that "the regular use of dietary supplements is not beneficial in reducing the risk of mortality among the general population in the United States", according to study co author Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, an associate professor at the Freedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. People want to be healthy, yet we've got a constant stream of conflicting research about what's healthy and what's not (although the science on supplements has been pretty consistent) - so why not double down by taking vitamins?

When the researchers analysed the data, they found that in supplement takers, nutrients from the foods they ate were protective, but nutrients from the supplements were not.

The study, which was published on April 9 in Annals of Internal Medicine, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey from 1999 to 2010, which was linked to mortality data from the National Death Index. Each person provided information about their supplement use in the past month - more than half had used at least one - as well as their dietary habits.

During the follow-up period, which lasted about six years, more than 3,600 people died. There was no cancer death risk increase linked with calcium intake acquired from food rather than pills. After that adjustment, the connection between supplements and longevity disappeared.

Instead, the team found indications that use of vitamin D supplements by individuals with no sign of vitamin D deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of death from all causes including cancer.

In fact, some supplements even appeared to come with health risks. Meanwhile, getting the right nutrients by eating the right amount of food is associated with longer life.

The researchers did find a lower risk of death associated with supplements, but that association became non-significant when they accounted for lifestyle factors such as education, smoking and drinking. More and more evidence suggests no benefits. One 2015 study estimated that unsafe or improperly taken supplements, including those for weight loss, send more than 23,000 Americans to the emergency room each year.

"As potential advantages and damages of enhancement use keep on being contemplated, a few investigations have discovered relationship between overabundance supplement consumption and unfriendly results, including expanded danger of specific malignant growths", said Fang Zhang, partner educator at Tufts University in the US. But with an abundance of uncertainty and a lack of evidence for supplements, Zhang says the average person should just eat a balanced diet that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, rather than turning to over-the-counter solutions.

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