Too much of a good thing can actually kill you. Scientists seem to have proven this adage, at least in the case of vitamins.
Researchers who published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, have revealed that taking vitamin supplements like those of A and E as well as other anti-oxidants like beta-carotene, to improve your health, can actually increase the risk of death.
When the researchers conducted 68 trials involving 200,000 participants, the antioxidant supplements were shown to be associated with a 5 percent increased risk of mortality. In addition, vitamin A and vitamin E were associated with 16 and 4 percent respectively, increased risk of mortality.
On the other hand, there was no increased mortality risk associated with vitamin C or Selenium use.
Exactly how the high doses of supplements affect the risk of death is not clear. The study authors speculate that perhaps the vitamins affect the body's defense mechanisms. According to lead author Goran Bjelakovic, of the Center for Clinical Intervention Research, Copenhagen University Hospital, it could be that anti-oxidants interfere with free radicals, which are components of the body's defense system.
John Messmer of Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine agrees. "People should spend their money on multiple varieties and colors of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean protein and stop wasting it on supplements", he says.
Keith Ayoob, of the department of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has similar views: "The best research says to take a complete multivitamin with 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance or RDA and not more."
The study authors would like to see more research in this area as there could be 'serious consequences' considering that 10 to 20 percent of the population in North America and Europe take supplements.