Pills are pointless

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Date: May 27, 2006
From: New Scientist(Vol. 190, Issue 2553)
Publisher: New Scientist Ltd.
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 184 words
Lexile Measure: 1790L

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ONE in two Americans takes multivitamin pills regularly, so they must be doing some good, right? Not necessarily, says an expert panel set up to assess the health effects of multivitamin and mineral supplements.

The panel, appointed by the National Institutes of Health, says there is little evidence that such supplements are of any benefit to already healthy people, and could sometimes actually cause harm. Taking extra vitamin D combined with calcium can increase the risk of kidney stones, while smokers who take beta-carotene to fend off lung cancer actually increase their risk, the report says.

The study, published on 17 May, evaluated evidence from randomised controlled trials in which neither subjects nor investigators initially knew who received the supplements and who received placebos. The Council for Responsible Nutrition, representing the vitamin pill makers, says this assessment method was unfair because the products are not drugs. But panel chairman Michael McGinnis of the Institute of Medicine, which carried out the study, says that the industry has a vested interest in its products being viewed as foods rather than drugs, which face much stricter regulation.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A146632255