Snake-oil sales are as old as medicine itself. We're right to be skeptical of the health benefits promised by many pills, ointments, and yet we've been craving their benefits for just as long. Experts have gone back and forth on how effective most vitamins and mineral supplements are for the average consumer. In the latest round, the evidence seems to fall squarely against your pocketbook.
This week, the American College of Cardiology published a study suggesting that while most supplements won't actively harm you, there isn't enough high-quality evidence to suggest they're helping much. This particular study was a meta-analysis of trials conducted between 2012 and 2017, focusing on preventing cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, or premature death. The researchers did not focus on applications for particular supplements either, such as the use of vitamin C or zinc to fend off colds.
"Vitamin supplements are powerful placebos," New York University professor Marion Nestle told U.S. News & World Report. "People feel better when they take supplements in the belief that taking more vitamins will improve health. Most evidence shows that they do not."
While multivitamins and their like can help patients with particular deficiencies when taken with the guidance of a medical professional, most of the rest of us are probably wasting our cash. In a majority of cases, no supplement, these researchers urge, can replace the nutritional effects of a healthy diet. Every society loves cheat codes, but perfect health doesn't come in pill form just yet.