Nutritious Foods, Not Dietary Supplements, Best for Living Longer

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A new study is throwing water on the idea that supplements are beneficial to take. The new research indicates that supplements don’t help to reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer or death, though getting nutrients directly from food does.

Researchers looked at responses from almost 31,000 adults who answered questions on dietary supplement use from the National Health and Nutrition Health Survey. The adults were also followed for an average of 6.1 years.

Results, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that use of dietary supplements was not associated with a reduction in death. Intake of vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc and copper at recommended levels was associated with a reduction in all-cause or cardiovascular mortality, but only when those nutrients were obtained from food. Also, excess calcium intake was associated with a higher risk of cancer death.

“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,” lead author Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD, associated professor at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said in a statement. “This study also confirms the importance of identifying the nutrient source when evaluating mortality outcomes.”

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