In a recent study, researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University disclosed two shocking findings: One, that a sufficient intake of certain nutrients from food, not supplements, is linked to a lower risk of early death; and two, that consuming too much of some nutrients in supplement form may be harmful.
“Our results support the idea that, while supplement use contributes to an increased level of total nutrient intake, there are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements,” said Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD, associate professor at Tufts University and senior and corresponding author on the study. Moreover, findings suggest that “excess intake from supplements could be harmful,” the researchers stated.
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In fact, as LiveScience reports, high levels of calcium from supplements (at least 1,000 milligrams per day) was linked to an increased risk of death from cancer. There was no link between intake of calcium from food and risk of death from cancer.
The study analyzed information taken from more than 27,000 adults in the US ages 20 and up who opted into a national health survey between 1999 and 2010. For around six years, on average, participants were asked about what they ate in the last 24 hours and whether they had taken supplements in the last 30 days. During the study period, about 3,600 people died; and of these, 945 died from heart disease and 805 died from cancer.
Results revealed that those who consume adequate amounts of vitamin K (magnesium) had a lower risk of death from any cause during the study period when compared to those who didn’t. And those who consumed sufficient levels of vitamin A, vitamin K, zinc or copper had a lower risk of death from heart disease compared to those who did not. But, here’s the important part: Only the nutrients consumed from food, not supplements, were tied to lower risk of death or heart disease.
It’s important to note that researchers also relied on self-reports from participants which may not be entirely accurate. Future studies should continue to examine the potential risks and benefits of supplements.