Product Liability

Supplements may put older women at greater risk for dying

Older women who take dietary supplements may be at a slightly increased risk of dying, according to a new study published in a recent issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine. But experts say women who take supplements or multivitamins shouldn’t be immediately alarmed.

The 19-year study looked at about 39,000 women with an average age of 62. Eighty-five percent of the women took at least one dietary supplement a day. The study showed that among those taking multivitamins or supplements of iron, Vitamin B-6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc and copper had an average of a 2.4 percent increased chance of death over the course of the research than women not taking supplements. Iron was associated with the highest risk of death. Calcium, however, appeared to reduce the risk.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said women who take supplements should weigh the facts carefully. First, the study did not show a biologic cause-and-effect. It doesn’t explain why supplements might put women at risk for dying. And that proves more research is needed before there is cause for alarm.

“We don’t have enough data, we don’t have enough well-constructed research to show us what the effect of these vitamins can do, especially when taken in high doses, excessive quantities,” Dr. Ashton said.

One thing doctors do know is that excessive iron can be dangerous to the heart and liver in people with certain types of blood disorders. This may explain why iron had the highest associated risk for death in the study.

Perhaps the most important information to glean from the study is to discuss concerns with your doctor.

“You want to try to avoid self-diagnosis and falling into that trap of the marketing and advertising claims that a lot of these supplement portend,” Dr. Ashton said. “Do not assume that more is better. Really, do not take more than the recommended dosage because we do know that these vitamins, like anything, can be dangerous.”

Source: CBS News