Americans could be wasting billions each year on supplements – The Hill

The story at a glance


  • The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) analyzed data on dietary supplements and found that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether they had any health benefits.

  • More than half of American adults said they had used at least one dietary supplement in the previous 30 days.

  • Dietary supplements are not considered medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure any disease.

Millions of Americans take dietary supplements to improve their overall health and wellbeing, but these efforts may not help, a new report concludes that there is not enough evidence to determine whether supplements have tangible health benefits.

The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a new recommendation That said, Americans may not need to take vitamin, mineral, or multivitamin supplements to prevent serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer.

The USPSTF found that the current available evidence is “insufficient to determine the benefits and harms of taking most vitamin, mineral, and multivitamin supplements to prevent heart disease, stroke, and cancer” .

The USPSTF is an independent group of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The task force makes reports to Congress each year that identify evidence gaps in research and recommend priority areas that require further examination.


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The task force found that beta-carotene supplements may actually have adverse health effects and advised against taking them. The supplement was linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in people who smoke tobacco or are occupationally exposed to asbestos.

More than half of American adults, 52%, said they had used at least one dietary supplement in the past 30 days and 31% said they had taken a multivitamin and mineral supplement, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The most cited reason for taking supplements was for general health and well-being and to fill nutrient gaps in the daily diet.

The supplement industry brings in around $50 billion in dietary supplements and spends around $900 million in marketing, according to researchers from Northwestern University.

“The appeal of supplements is obvious. In theory, vitamins and minerals have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that should decrease the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer,” the researchers wrote.

However, after The USPSTF conducted its own analysis, it found that for many of the vitamins and nutrients examined, there was simply not enough evidence to determine the balance between the benefits and harms of single or paired nutrient supplementation for preventing cardiovascular disease or the cancer.

However, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) retaliated against USPSTF findings and noted that the evidence for the benefits of dietary supplements is growing. The group referred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplementswhich argues that certain dietary supplements can improve overall health and manage certain health conditions.

The NIH says calcium and vitamin D can maintain bone strength and reduce bone loss, while folic acid can reduce the risk of certain birth defects. Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil may also help people with heart disease.

Dietary supplements are not considered medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure any disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees both supplements and drugs, but imposes separate regulations for dietary supplements.

Supplements do not require FDA approval before they can be sold or marketed and manufacturers are permitted to say that a supplement promotes health or supports a bodily function – but cannot say that a product can diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Posted on June 22, 2022

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