Vitamin supplements are a waste of money and could harm rather than improve your health, scientists are warning.
Following a study of nearly 500,000 people, researchers concluded that “supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults… has no clear benefit and might even be harmful”.
The findings will come as a shock to the one in three Brits who take vitamins or mineral pills.
The research was carried out by academics from the University of Warwick and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, USA, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
According to The Times, the scientists suggested companies selling supplements were fuelling false health anxieties to offer unnecessary cures.
Three research papers helped inform the team’s opinion.
One, analysing 24 previous trials involving 450,000 people, found no beneficial effect on mortality from taking vitamins.
Another examined 6,000 elderly men and found no improvement on cognitive decline after 12 years of taking supplements, while a third saw no advantage of supplements among 1,700 men and women with heart problems over an average study of five years.
The experts said most supplements should be avoided as their use is not justified, writing: “These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”
They said that an average Western diet is sufficient to provide the necessary vitamins the body needs.
Edgar Miller, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said: “There are some that advocate we have many nutritional deficiencies in our diet.
“The truth is though we are in general overfed, our diet is completely adequate.”
He added: “These companies are marketing products to us based on perceptions of deficiencies.
“They make us think our diet is unhealthy, and that they can help us make up for these deficiencies and stop chronic illnesses.
“The group that needs these is very small.
“It’s not the general population.”
Dr Miller continued: “There’s something for everything: preventing joint pains, stopping heart disease.
“If you’re going to spend your money on something every month, is this really the best option?”
The NHS advised recently that other than women taking folic acid to help them conceive and the elderly and children under five benefiting from vitamin D, supplementary vitamins would be surplus to that already gained through diet, The Times said.
The Health Food Manufacturers’ Association said vitamin supplements provided people with “nutritional insurance”.