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In the October 11 electronic issue of MedPageToday, author Todd Neale highlighted a recent study performed by Jaakko Mursu, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland (Kuopio) et al, and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This observational study found that “In postmenopausal women, the use of several common vitamin and mineral supplements was associated with an increased risk of death.”

Particularly the “use of multivitamins and vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper supplements was associated with greater all-cause mortality” in the study which included 19 years of follow-up data, according to Dr. Mursu and colleagues. The study examined the use of vitamin and mineral supplements by 38,772 postmenopausal women participating in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The mean age of the women at the beginning of this study (1986) was 61.6.

There was good news from this study’s conclusion that the use of calcium and vitamin D was found to be associated with a decreased risk of all-cause mortality, when compared to non-use. But, based on existing evidence, Mursu and his colleagues recommend that they [dietary supplements] “be used with strong medically based cause, such as symptomatic nutrient deficiency disease.”

This study’s conclusions might serve as a cautionary notes for the hosts of people who use dietary supplements. Many physicians and dietitians will tell patients that the best way to gain the benefits of vitamins and minerals is through the foods they consume. According to Mursu et al, the use of dietary supplements for the purpose of improving health and preventing diseases in the U.S. is extremely common. About half of U.S. adults used one or more dietary supplements in 2000, with annual sales of dietary supplements exceeding $20 billion. In an editor’s note, Rita Redberg, MD, of the University of California (San Francisco), penned, it should also be noted that "manufacturers are not required to disclose to the FDA or to consumers the evidence they have regarding their products’ safety, nor must they empirically back up claims of purported benefits."

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