Are supplements good for you?

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Up to 20 per cent of people in the West take vitamins. The UK market alone is worth £330 million. Whether it's to ward off disease or just improve skin and hair condition, our love affair with supplements shows no sign of abating. It costs us a fortune but does it really do us any good?

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What if, instead of improving health, taking supplements actually damaged it? There is evidence that there may be little benefit and even some harm in popping antioxidants.

A recent report published by the Cochrane Collaboration, has shown that there is no evidence to support the notion that taking vitamins will prevent disease and improve life expectancy.

The study, which looked at 233,000 people, showed that supplements had little if any impact on reducing the risk of dying early. Instead, it showed that high levels of A and E vitamins may actually increase mortality.

According to the report it is possible that high levels of antioxidants may block the absorption of other nutrients and as a result cause health problems. Many dieticians would like vitamin supplements to be treated as medicines. That way they could be monitored for adverse reactions.

The general consensus seems to be that eating a balanced diet may be the best way to stay healthy. The Department of Health said people should try to get the vitamins they need from their diet, and avoid taking large doses of supplements. Consult your GP if you are concerned.

Do you think that vitamin supplements can improve your health or are they unnecessary? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.