How safe are your daily supplements?

Nutritional supplements have come a long way since the cod liver oil and fortified bread of the postwar years. More than 40 per cent of us now pop a pill once a day and the industry is booming. Britons spent about £360million on supplements last year and in America the annual spend was a massive $6billion.

Last Friday, a report extolled the benefits of a cocktail of vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. We tend to see supplements as a harmless way of making sure we're fully stocked with all the nutrients we need; but a growing body of research is beginning to challenge this view.

A different study published last week found that about a million women taking calcium supplements to combat osteoporosis were 50 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those on placebos. Recent US research suggested that men taking multivitamins have a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer, while beta-carotene supplements were linked to an increase in the ominously non-specific "overall risk of dying".

Patients prescribed supplements on medical grounds must balance these risks with the beneficial impact they might have, but we should all be aware of the risks. Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's hospital in London and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, talked me through six of our favourite supplements.

Source - Telegraph

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