Many Americans think vitamin supplements will improve their health and help them live longer. Not necessarily, says a recent study from Tufts University. It found the best path to longevity is through nutrients in foods, and that supplements might even be bad for you.
It is estimated 50-percent of all adult Americans take vitamin supplements. But is America's love affair with supplements healthy or just a lot of hype?
Nutritionist Sandra Arevalo says if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, most of the time vitamins and mineral supplements are unnecessary.
"Some people think that supplements are just like a magic bullet. You know like, 'I'm going to take this and all my problems are going to go away,'" says Arevalo.
According to the Tufts study, taking supplements didn't translate to a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, or any other cause. But getting adequate amounts of vitamin K and magnesium from food was associated with a lower risk of death from all causes.
And getting enough vitamins A and K, copper, and zinc through diet was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.
Consumer Reports says if you stick to a diet made up of mostly whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, you'll get just what you need.
"You can find vitamin A in carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and spinach. Cauliflower, leafy greens, and brussels sprouts are all rich in vitamin K," said Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports Health Editor.
Bananas and nuts are great for magnesium. And for copper - whole grains, potatoes, and shellfish.
The study also found overuse of supplements was not without negative effects.
High calcium intake - around 1,000 milligrams a day from supplements - was linked to an increased risk of death from cancer.
"The study found that when people got the same amount of calcium from foods like yogurt, cheese, and milk, they didn't have the same increased risk of death from cancer," Calvo said.
There are times when supplements are recommended. For example, if you are pregnant folic acid supplements are vital.
As always, it's best to check with your healthcare provider.
Study: Nutrients in foods may be more beneficial than supplements