Most adults in the United States use dietary supplements, with a number has remained almost the same for the past ten years, despite the scientific community discovering that the majority of them do not have any health benefits, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that people in the U.S. spent almost thirty-five billion dollars in supplements every year. In the past month, more than half of all American adults would have taken dietary supplements, practically the same estimate as 1999.

According to the scientific community, the majority of them do not have any health benefits. Photo credit: Today
According to the scientific community, the majority of them do not have any health benefits. Photo credit: Today

NIH has invested three hundred million dollars in studying the real effects of supplements, discovering that the majority do not have any. This might explain why American adults have shifted from some supplements to others.

Which supplements are the most popular?

Every day, fewer Americans are taking multivitamins, for example. In 1999, the percentage was thirty-seven, and by 2011 it had diminished to thirty-one. This is correspondent to several studies that concluded in that period that multivitamins are mostly uses and even could increase mortality rates in some populations.

At the same time, research that concluded that antioxidant supplements usually do not have health benefits might be the cause fewer Americans are taking selenium, and vitamins C and E. On the other hand, more people are consuming omega-3 fatty acid, probiotics, vitamin D and lycopene.

Consumption of vitamin D has increased the most in the past decade, perhaps thanks to various studies that have concluded it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and reduce fractures. Lycopene consumption has also increased after research have discovered it helps men to reduce their risk of prostate cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids also increase since some studies proved it could lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Habits are hard to break

However, American adults keep taking supplements that also do not have any health benefits. Researchers believe this might have something to do with habit, and the media power, especially in advertising and marketing.

One issue is that supplement companies do not require the FDA approval to claim their products work, unlike drug companies, so they do not face a “rigorous” approval process.

Although campaigns for supplements have to say that “these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease,” a recent study shows this have barely any effect on potential costumers.

For example, children vitamins came shaped like cartoon characters and taste like candy, so parents do not believe they can be harmful, as stated by Paul Offit, author, and the doctor who restricted the use of supplements the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“The problem is, these can be very powerful, and we don’t always know what is in them,” has agreed Sarah Erush, pharmacy clinical manager and residency director at the Children’s Hospital.

Source: CNN