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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Vitamin pills a 'waste of money'
Vitamins are 'a waste of money'
Vitamins are 'a waste of money'
Taking vitamins to protect against disease is a waste of money, according to a report.

The study said that the millions of people taking daily doses of vitamins C and E and beta-carotene were not protecting themselves from cancer, heart problems, strokes and other potentially fatal disease.

The scientists said that people would be better off eating fresh fruit and vegetables.

Dr Jane Armitage from the University of Oxford's clinical trial services unit said the 21m five-year study had given disappointing results for vitamin use.


Vitamin pills are a waste of time

Rory Collins, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford

"It was disappointing we did not see any benefits at all in either heart diseases or cancer."

But she added that the trial, by the Heart Protection Study, had only looked at a specific combination of vitamins and that there was no evidence to show that other vitamins did not prove beneficial.

"There is a lot of evidence that vitamins in the diet are a good thing such as eating fresh fruit and vegetables."

The people studied were given relatively high doses of vitamins - 600mg of vitamin E, 250mg of vitamin C and 20mg of beta-carotene.

Rory Collins, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford who led the study which is published in the Lancet, said: "Over five years we saw absolutely no effect.

"Vitamin pills are a waste of time. There was no evidence of any protective effect against heart disease, cancer or any other outcome. They are safe but they are useless."

Protective

He said eating fresh fruit and vegetables was a better way of protecting the body.

"There is no need to supplement this with vitamin pills."

"There have been claims that vitamins might protect you against cataracts, there was no effect; that vitamins might prevent fractures by preventing osteoporosis, there was no effect."

The cost of vitamins
Last year 45% of households took supplements
350m was spent on vitamins last year in the UK
C is the top selling vitamin

The British Heart Protection Study followed 20,000 people aged 40 to 80 from 69 British Hospitals and looked at vitamins as well as the effect of cholesterol-lowering statins.

They found that the cholesterol lowering drugs worked within a year and had major effects within five years.

Dr Jane Armitage
Dr Jane Armitage: Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is more beneficial

Other studies have suggested that the vitamins might have a protective effect against some diseases.

A spokesman for the Health Supplements Information Service said vitamins had widely proven benefits when taken by the general population as a supplement to a balanced diet or to boost nutrients.

He said that they were not intended to be used over a short time to treat or prevent serious illness among people at high risk of heart disease.

He said: "Vitamins, including antioxidants play a general preventative role with health.

"However, they are not intended to be used for the treatment or prevention of serious illnesses such as heart disease or cancer in these circumstances."

Sue Croft of Consumers for Health Choice said: "There are thousands and thousands of studies to show that nutrients are beneficial.

"46% of households in the UK buys a vitamin supplement and they can't all be wrong."

A spokesman for Boots said: "The report only looks at the benefits of vitamins and supplements for preventing chronic illness.

"Vitamins and supplements are not intended to treat or prevent serious illness.

"Supplements are essential for many people who find it difficult to ensure that they get the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals in their diet.

"Studies have shown the benefits of supplementing diets with vitamins for health maintenance."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Gill Higgins
"Vitamins are big business"
The BBC's John Kay
"There is some concern in the industry about the latest study"
Dr Jane Armitage, Oxford University
We didn't see any benefit at all"
See also:

04 Jul 02 | Health
29 Apr 02 | Health
13 Mar 02 | Health
11 Mar 02 | Health
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