There is good and bad news regarding vitamins and minerals. The good news is that certain vitamins and mineral intake are associated with lower early death rates. According to a new study, this link can only be seen when nutrients are obtained from food and not supplements.

Supplements can also be dangerous. A study concluded that high amounts of calcium in supplements could increase your cancer risk.

Food vs. Supplements

The study used data from over 27,000 Americans aged 20 or older who participated in a national survey on health between 1999 and 2010. Interviewers asked the participants what they ate over the past 24 hours and if they had taken any supplements within the last 30 days. The average follow-up period for participants was six years.

The study included 3,600 deaths. Nine hundred forty-five were from heart disease, while 805 were from cancer.

Study results showed that those who ate good vitamin H or magnesium had lower death rates from any cause than those who did not. Additionally, those who eat sufficient vitamin B, Vitamin K, Zinc, or Copper have a lower chance of dying from heart disease than those who don’t.

However, when researchers looked at the source of the nutrients — supplements vs. food — they found that only nutrients from food were associated with a lower chance of death from any cause.

The study also found that high intakes of calcium supplements (at least 1,000 mg per day) were associated with a higher chance of dying from cancer. However, there was no association between calcium intake from food and the risk of dying from cancer.

Researchers concluded that adequate nutrient intake from food was associated with lower mortality. However, excessive intake of supplements could lead to death.

However, researchers pointed out that they did not objectively measure the participants’ consumption but rather relied on self-reports, which might not have been entirely accurate. Future research should examine the possible risks and benefits associated with supplements.

Supplements can pose a risk

This is not the first study to link supplement abuse with adverse effects. A large study in 2011 found that vitamin-E supplements were linked to an increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer. A separate study of older women also found that supplements were linked to an increase in death over the 20 years.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that people eat a healthy diet, including nutrient-dense food, to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need. The academy points out that food can have beneficial components that aren’t found in supplements like fiber or bioactive substances.

The academy states that real food has healthy nutrients that a pill cannot provide. It’s different when we extract a nutrient from food and put it in a pill.

People with certain conditions or diseases may not be able to get the nutrients they require from food and might need supplements. Pregnant women may need to take iron or folic acid supplements to help prevent congenital disabilities and support the growing fetus. Supplements may be required for people with food allergies or other digestive issues.