If you’ve ever found yourself in the health and wellness aisle of your local pharmacy, wondering in total confusion which vitamins you should take and which ones are just a bunch of BS, there might be some good news coming your way. While there is a lot of advice out there to stuff your pill box with all kinds of supplements to take every day, there seems to be even more evidence that the whole practice might be a bit pointless for you, health-wise — for the most part, anyway.
This not-so-little revelation comes from a new review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which looked at both data and different clinical trials done between January 2012 and October 2017 to see whether or not taking vitamins really affects your health one way or the other in the long-term. Lo and behold, according to the results of that review, most multivitamins, along with vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium supplements, don’t really add much of a boost to your overall health, even when you take them every day over a long period of time. On top of that, ScienceAlert reports, "there was no evidence taking them reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, or early death."
So does that mean you’ve been taking those yummy Flintstones vitamins your whole life for nothing?
Unfortunately, yes, this might mean there’s really no point in taking your Flinstones vitamins, besides a daily dose of good ol’ nostalgia. Rest assured, though, you’re not the only one who’s a bit taken aback by just how pointless most vitamins apparently are. According to Forbes, the study’s lead author, Dr. David Jenkins, said in a statement,
We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume. Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm – but there is no apparent advantage either.
Per Business Insider, some of the other vitamins that were under review during the study were vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 (aka folic acid), C, D, and E. The researchers also looked at the effects of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium on people’s health, and still, none of them appeared to have any real, meaningful impact on the human body. Dr. Jenkins added in his statement,
These findings suggest that people should be conscious of the supplements they’re taking and ensure they’re applicable to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies they have been advised of by their healthcare provider.
But there was one type of vitamin in the study that stood out among the rest in terms of the benefits it promises for your health.
The study found that both folic acid and B vitamins with folic acid might help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, per ScienceAlert. But really, what even is folic acid, and why did it stand out in this research? Well, according to Medical News Today, folic acid is a "complex B vitamin," and the reason why it’s so good for your health is that it helps your body make new red blood cells, which protects and aids your overall brain function. You can obviously take the vitamin in pill form if you’d like, but you can also find folic acid in delicious foods like spinach, beans, avocados, corn, and squash, to name a few.
It’s worth mentioning, however, as the researchers themselves pointed out, that it’s possible some people might think taking supplements means you can be a little lackadaisical with the rest of your diet. But in reality, the researchers insist that a balanced diet should always be your top priority when it comes to taking care of your health. Dr. Jenkins explained,
In the absence of significant positive data – apart from folic acid’s potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease – it’s most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals.
So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
Bottom line: Vitamins won’t hurt or harm your body in any way, but taking them might not really give you much of a health advantage, either. As Dr. Jenkins and his team explained, it’s best to talk to your doctor about which supplements are best for you, if any, and generally speaking, you should always know why you’re taking a supplement or vitamin in the first place — and not just because it reminds you of your childhood.