Multivitamins taken by millions of 'worried well' are a waste of money and may be doing more harm than good, an expert has said.
Brian Ratcliffe, a former government adviser on nutrition, accused the £600million-a-year vitamin pill industry of preying on the fears and finances of people who are essentially healthy.
The tablets, on sale in every supermarket, chemist and health food shop, do little to boost health in those with no medical problems and in some cases could be dangerous. For instance, those who take fish oils as well as multivitamins could be raising their odds of brittle bones in later years because they are consuming too much vitamin A.
The health-conscious should not take any supplements without first consulting their GP or another medical expert, said Professor Ratcliffe, of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
He said: 'A lot of people take supplements because they are the worried well and are concerned with taking a belt-and-braces approach to health. So they are not thinking very carefully about why they are taking them, how much they should be taking and whether they should be taking them at all. They are simply wasting their money and fuelling an industry that is to some extent exploiting their fears. Then, of course, there is a chance they are dabbling in an area where there is a potential for harm.'
The professor, a former adviser to the Food Standards Agency, is not the first to raise concern about the tablets taken by 40 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men a day.