Vitamin pills ‘waste of time’

Vitamins A, C and E do no good and 'could shorten life'

Vitamin supplements taken by thousands of people could have no benefits at all and even increase the risk of premature death, researchers say.

Taking antioxidant supplements including vitamins A and E in an attempt to keep bodies healthy and avoid diseases such as cancer are meddling with the body’s natural defences and may even increase premature death by up to 16%.

After a review of 67 studies on 230,000 healthy participants, scientists at Copenhagen University found ‘no convincing evidence’ that antioxidants aided life expectancy and and that some ‘increased mortality’.

12 million Britons take vitamin supplements and the industry is currently worth £330 million. However, virtually no research has been carried out on the long-term health repercussions.

The Department of Health has reacted to the news by advising people to aim to get the necessary vitamins from a balanced diet and recommended taking care in using large doses of supplements.

A spokesman commented: ‘There is a need to exercise caution in the use of high doses of purified supplements of vitamins, including antioxidant vitamins, and minerals. Their impact on long-term health may not have been fully established and they cannot be assumed to be without risk.’

Nutritionist Patrick Holford said: ‘ Antioxidants are not meant to be magic bullets and should not be expected to undo a lifetime of unhealthy habits.

‘When used properly, in combination with a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables, getting plenty of exercise and not smoking, antioxidant supplements can play an important role in maintaining and promoting overall health.’

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