It has been estimated that over half of all Americans take some kind of vitamin or supplement. For older Americans, that number climbsto 70 percent. It is, inarguably, a massive industry; A market research analysis predicted it will have a global worth of almost $300 billion by 2024.
Whatever deficiency you are looking to correct, the vitamin industry has you covered. There is an ever-growing list of vitamin-infused products (vitamin coffee, vitamin beer, vitamin vodka and even vitamin e-cigarettes) and novel ways in which to cram vitamins into our body (vitamin mists, vitamin nasal sprays, vitamin skin patches, vitamin injections, vitamin underwear and vitamin rectal infusions). There are supplements that promise to boost your energy, like Goop’s aptly named product “Why Am I So Effing Tired,” to help you sleep and to improve your skin — just name a few.
But why do so many people take so many different kinds of vitamins and supplements? A 2018 survey of university students found that consumption was driven by a desire to enhance performance, cognitive function and overall wellbeing (79 percent). Interestingly, very few took supplements for the purpose of addressing perceived dietary deficiencies (2.9 percent). Research has also found that people who take supplements are more likely to adopt other healthy habits. It seems that often, supplements are simply viewed as part of a healthy lifestyle.
In reality, there is very little evidence to support the consumption of vitamins and supplements.
Studies have also found that people who take supplements are confident in their beliefs about both efficacy and safety of these products. A 2015 industry survey, for instance, concluded that 84 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the overall safety, quality and effectiveness of supplements.
In reality, there is very little evidence to support the consumption of vitamins and supplements. Studies have consistently found, for example, that multivitamins provide no clear health benefit. There is little evidence to support the use of most supplements in the context of sports, even for high-performance athletes. A 2018 systematic review from Canada found that “conclusive evidence for the benefit of any supplement across all dietary backgrounds… was not demonstrated” and that, for some supplements, there were real risks that should be considered.
Vitamins also do not work as an insurance policy against a poor diet. As nicely summarized in an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine — aptly titled “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements” — “most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.”
This article originally appeared on NBC