Poll: Do you think vitamins and supplements are ‘mostly harmless’ or worthwhile?

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Sometimes data on vitamins and supplements appears conflicting, leaving consumers with mixed messages about whether they should or shouldn’t take them

A GP recently wrote in Medical Observer that vitamins are ‘mostly harmless and very profitable’.

Dr Justin Coleman highlighted a recent meta-analysis that showed vitamin D and calcium supplementation had no effect on the incidence on fractures.

Meanwhile the US has seen a nearly tenfold increase of vitamin D supplement sales in the past decade compared to the previous one.

Dr Coleman concludes that vitamin D supplementation is “mostly harmless” but not efficacious.

Professor Robin Daly from the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University, Melbourne, says overall the available evidence indicates that calcium supplementation, or calcium with vitamin D, has a small positive effects on bone mineral density, but cumulative benefit has not been shown in most studies.

In an education article for the AJP, Professor Daly looks at who is at risk of calcium and/or vitamin D deficiency, and discusses the dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D.

He says that “for those not able to achieve the recommended daily intake (RDI) for calcium through diet alone, calcium-fortified food or dietary supplements may be required”.

Groups that are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Elderly people, particularly if housebound
  • People with dark-skin
  • People who wear modest dress which covers most of their bodies
  • Babies of vitamin D deficient mothers
  • Obese individuals
  • People with secondary medical disorders (e.g. renal or coeliac disease)
  • People living at a latitude >35°S
  • People with limited sun exposure (e.g. office workers, taxi drivers, night shift workers)
  • People who use overzealous amounts of sunscreen (SF30+ reduces vitamin D synthesis by 95%+)

Meanwhile inadequate vitamin D can also reduce calcium absorption, leading to calcium deficiency.

What do you think about vitamin and mineral supplementation? Is it ‘mostly harmless’, dangerous or actually worthwhile?

Learn more about the role of calcium and vitamin D in optimising healthy musculoskeletal ageing by completing our CPD Activity by Professor Robin Daly, Chair of Exercise and Ageing within the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition in the Faculty of Health at Deakin University, Victoria.

Professor Daly has more than 20 years of experience in conducting human clinical, public health and translational intervention trials to evaluate the role of exercise and nutrition on musculoskeletal health.

The CPD year ends very soon on 30 September, so use this opportunity to get your points and learn about calcium and vitamin D at the same time!

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  1. Harriet Wright

    I think that vitamins and supplements are not taken seriously by the public as important health aids because they are available in supermarkets and are seen as foods rather than therapeutic goods.

  2. pagophilus

    Eating healthy is worthwhile. Taking the occasional supplement for a particular condition may be worthwhile. Taking supplements every day does little more than make your wallet lighter and somebody else’s heavier.

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