More supplement myths fall

Two recent studies on the health benefits associated with two commonly-used dietary supplements further add to our message here at ACSH that complementary products do very little to protect us from any types of disease, and supply further evidence to counter the myth that the more we take them, the healthier we become.

Without sounding like a broken record, let us say it again: claims of health benefits from supplements are, in fact, not true, although slick marketing techniques and reports not based on sound science have done well to camouflage the evidence.

But for the naysayers, this just in: Despite numerous studies advocating the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for our health, researchers at the University of Iowa suggest otherwise. Their findings, published in the journal Neurology, showed that high levels of omega-3s are of no benefit at all to cognitive decline in older women. After performing blood tests from 2,157 women to measure the levels of omega-3s present in their bloodstream, researchers found no difference in performance on memory tests between women with high levels of omega-3s and those with low levels of the the fatty acids in their blood.

Then there s this: While calcium supplements have been shown to improve bone health in postmenopausal women, taking supplemental vitamin D the vitamin that helps calcium get incorporated into bones did not reduce bone turnover, according to a recent study to be published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The two supplements generally work together to suppress bone loss (and thereby increase bone strength). In this case, postmenopausal women who are already receiving the recommended daily dose of Vitamin D from their diets or from sun exposure did not benefit from adding more of the supplement.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross had this to say: Studies have shown significant heart benefits linked to high intake of fish, which contain high levels of omega-3s. But that does not necessarily correlate with taking this same substance in pill form, nor for brain function, as is shown by this study. And this news about vitamin D may surprise some, since a flurry of recent studies have indicated possible benefits for that vitamin in a variety of conditions. But no one should be surprised that ingesting vitamin D does not improve bone health among people who already are getting an adequate amount of D.