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15 September 2009

UK professor says supplements are a waste of time

Related topics: Omega-3, Industry, Antioxidants, carotenoids, Dosage forms, Minerals, Nutritional lipids and oils, Phytochemicals, plant extracts, Vitamins & premixes, Bone & joint health, Eye health

The likes of vitamin A and vitamin C are a waste of money for most people and can even be detrimental to health, a UK-based nutrition professor has told the British Science Festival.

Professor Brian Ratcliffe, the program leader of nutrition and dietetics at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, told the Festival many food supplements were ineffective for the majority of people and overuse of vitamin C for example, could lead to stomach problems.

Vitamin A was singled out as easily exceeding recommended levels if a consumer was to combine multivitamin use with a fish oil supplement. Potential side effects included headaches and nausea, osteoporosis, and eye and liver damage.

His statements have been picked up in the UK mainstream press in the past couple of days. Industry associations were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Professor Ratcliffe, who is an adviser to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), was also unavailable for comment.

The National Association of Health Stores issued a statement backing supplement use, as a way of compensating for nutrient-poor diets: “Evidence amassed by the Food Standards Agency tells us that the concept of the healthy, balanced diet still eludes the overwhelming majority of the British public.”

“And, of course, if you are ill, smoke, drink alcohol or exposed to environmental toxins such as traffic fumes your body benefits from a higher intake of vitamins and minerals and of course, if you are eating less than a certain number of calories such as when you are dieting, it is more difficult to get the nutrients you need from food.”

Professor Ratcliffe provides no supporting evidence to back his statements, and notes taking food supplements can be dangerous for those who may be taking pharmaceuticals.

UK supplement sales falling

His comments come at a time when vitamin sales are falling in the UK, at least according to analyst, Mintel, which predicts sales will slide from €155m in 2004 to below €100m by 2014 – a near 50 per cent decline.

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