Following up from my recent blog post explaining why dietary supplements offer few benefits for most people, new research has found that people who take a mineral supplement actually consume more minerals from their normal diet than non-supplement users. The notion of the ‘worried well’ is certainly alive and kicking.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are big business. Reported figures in Australia suggest that 27% of women and 15% of men take some form of supplement with vitamin C, B complex, multivitamins, vitamin E and calcium all being popular choices.
Contrary to the rationale for needing supplements in the first place, people who take supplements are more likely to be healthier than people who don’t take supplements. Supplement users also tend to be leaner, smoke less, exercise more, and eat more fruit and vegetables.
While it may seem obvious that people who take supplements likely consume more nutrients from their regular diet to start with, this hasn’t been well studied in large population groups.
Using data from a nationally representative government health survey, researchers from the United States looked at the mineral intake from food and supplements of over 8000 men and women between 2003 and 2006. The results were clear cut: people taking mineral supplements were consuming more minerals from their normal diet than those who didn’t take supplements. The observation was even stronger in women than in men.
The eight most popular mineral supplements taken were calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, copper, potassium and selenium.
Proving that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, supplement users were more likely to be exceeding the recommended upper level of intake for magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium.
What it all means
For someone who believes that they are reasonably healthy and are conscious of what they eat most of the time, taking a mineral supplement ‘just in case’ offers little to no benefit.