"This, of course, is just one study, and other similar studies have not found such a dramatic increase in mortality," said Mursu, who is also affiliated with the University of Minnesota. "Nevertheless, these studies have provided very little evidence that commonly used dietary supplements would help to prevent chronic diseases."
It should be noted that the study found an association between supplement use and health risks, but did not prove a cause-and-effect.
Speaking for the supplement industry, Duffy MacKay, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said that people who use supplements tend to live healthier lives.
These researchers "really do overstate the potential for harm, and understate any benefit," he said. "The researchers started out with the intention of identifying harm. I caution against making overstated assumptions and conclusions from this data."
MacKay noted that "anything, including water, can be harmful if you overdo it."
In the real world, you cannot get all the needed nutrients from diet alone, he said. So supplements are needed when you fall short. People need to analyze their diet and figure out what supplements they need, MacKay said.
Dr. Goran Bjelakovic, from the University of Nis in Serbia and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said that "dietary supplementation has shifted from preventing deficiency to trying to promote wellness and prevent diseases."
Consumers assume that vitamin and mineral supplements are safe, he said. "We think the paradigm 'the more the better' is wrong. We believe that for all micronutrients, there are risks associated with both insufficient intake and too large intake," Bjelakovic said.
Low levels increase the risk of deficiency; high levels increase the risk of toxicity and disease, he said. "We cannot recommend the use of vitamin and mineral supplements as
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