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Supplements Linked to Higher Mortality Rate in Older Women

A recent study published in the AMA’s Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that many of the supplements we take in an effort to improve our health and longevity may actually be harming it. Findings even suggest that certain vitamins-most notably iron-increase the risk of death in older women.

Over a study period of 19 years, women aged 55 to 69 at the launch of the study were asked about the supplements they used. Vitamin supplement use escalated from 63% in 1986 to 85% in 2004. Researchers believe that the use of supplements should be restricted to those who have known deficiencies, since the risk of death was about 2.4% higher in the women who regularly took supplements. In the year 2000, about half of all Americans said they took supplements, but “[w]e see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements,” said lead author of the study Jaakko Mursu. Mursu is a nutritionist at the University of East Finland in Kuopio and at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He added, “We would advise people to reconsider whether they need to use supplements, and put more emphasis on a healthy diet instead,” Mursu said.

Aside from iron, supplements like copper, zinc, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin B6, and multivitamins were also linked with early death, and the higher the dosage, the higher the mortality risk. Vitamins A and E, as well as folic acid, may also have adverse effects, though an increased likelihood of death was not noted in these cases. Calcium supplements were actually linked to a longer life, if taken in moderation.

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