Nutrients obtained through the consumption of healthy foods can prolong life expectancy and reduce the risk of premature death.
With more than half of US adults using dietary supplements, Zhang and her colleagues explored their effects, as well as the impact of nutrients found in foods, with data from 27,725 adults participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
"As potential benefits and harms of supplement use continue to be studied, some studies have found associations between excess nutrient intake and adverse outcomes, including increased risk of certain cancers", said Fang Fang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and senior and corresponding author on the study.
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Fortunately, the study revealed a lower risk of death associated with supplements, but they are also keeping in mind other factors like education, smoking and drinking, and diet.
Debate as to their effectiveness has raged for years with many studies showing a supplement does not mirror the effects of when taken naturally.
During the median follow-up of six years, 3,613 of the study participants died. Researchers then used that information to determine participants' nutrient levels. Finally, to calculate mortality outcomes for each study participant, matches were made with the National Death Index through December 31, 2011. The researchers assessed whether adequate or excess nutrient intake was associated with death and whether intake from food versus supplement sources had any effect on the associations.
In addition, there was evidence that unnecessary consumption of vitamin D supplements by individuals who were not deficient in the vitamin might increase the risk of death from any cause.
The study also highlighted the negative effects of overuse of supplements: For example, getting 1000mg per day of calcium in pill form was linked to a 62 percent increased risk of cancer. They found that insufficient intakes of magnesium and vitamin K were associated with lower risk of death. However, excess calcium was linked to an increase risk of cancer mortality. There was no association between dietary supplement use and a lower risk of death. However, this link requires further investigation to be definitively proved as a positive association.
Dietary supplements have remained controversial for a number of reasons, including lack of adequate regulations that result in many poor quality products that, in some cases, contain little or no active ingredients. Additionally, the possibility that residual confounding may have affected the study's results remains.