Vitamin Dilemma

A new study has linked long-term use of multivitamins and supplements containing vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper with an increased risk of early death in older women compared with those who didn’t take the supplements. The strongest risk was seen with iron – and as women ages, the risk was linked to lower doses than earlier in the study. By contrast, calcium was linked to a lower risk of dying in the study. (But another recent study linked calcium supplements to an increased risk of heart attack).

The findings are based on an analysis of more than 38,000 women ages 55 to 69 who were followed from 1986 until the end of 2008. The results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

So what should you do? This study raises concerns about the long-term safety of some supplement that you might be taking. And it’s not the only one – it echoes the findings of other recent studies that reported negative conclusions. But keep in mind that even though this study’s researchers took things such as age and health into account, other factors could have affected the outcome. So taking vitamins makes sense for people who have a clear deficiency, but everyone else should aim to get nutrients by eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

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