Buy food, not pills - watchdog
Popping a daily multivitamin pill could be a waste of time and money, says consumer watchdog Consumer NZ.
Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet already get all the nutrients they need and should save their dollars for the shopping trolley, said Consumer NZ research writer Jessica Wilson.
"Most of us don't need multivitamins and you are wasting your money if you buy them," she said.
Multivitamins are often taken as a kind of nutritional "insurance" to top up an inadequate diet. They're unlikely to do any harm - except to your wallet - but it's far from clear if they will do you any good.
Other nutrients, such as mineral supplements, vitamin C and B-type vitamins, are widely consumed, but there was very little evidence they altered health outcomes, despite what their manufacturers said, she said.
And more is not necessarily better when it comes to vitamin and mineral supplements. "Very big doses can be unsafe," Ms Wilson said.
The Food Standards Agency in Britain released its largest safety review of vitamins and minerals in 2004.
It suggests people who take excessive doses of some supplements are at risk of cancer, liver damage, loss of feeling in the arms and legs, and weakened bones.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies were not common in New Zealand and not even children needed to take them.
"Parents have been giving their kids multivitamins for years but there is absolutely no need to if they have a proper balanced diet."
Vitamin labelling could also confuse people, with different names used for the same ingredients and slick marketing designed to squeeze the last dollar in the market, she said.
"Once one company introduces a particular marketing phrase then it tends to be picked up by others as well."
The manufacturers marketed to the "worried well".
"You really are better off spending money on things for the supermarket trolley."
Consumer NZ recommends individuals consult a dietician or GP about their nutritional needs before opting for multivitamin or other supplements.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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