Healthy living

Vitamin supplements could damage your health

vitamins Misleading health claims exposed

People trying to improve their wellbeing by taking vitamin supplements may be wasting their hard earned cash as well as jeopardising their health, a consumer watchdog has warned.

Researchers at Which? visited supermarkets, chemists and smaller health shops in London during October and found plenty of examples of unsubstantiated claims on supplements.

Among the worst offenders were supplements which claimed to maintain healthy bones and joints. Many of the claims are based on ingredients like glucosamine, which is marketed as a treatment for joint pain. Evidence supporting this has been rejected by the European Food Safety Authority, yet the supplements are still available in shops.

Researchers also found high-strength supplement products containing vitamin B6 and beta-carotene on sale without the recommended warnings that taking too much of them could be harmful.

The watchdog found this 'particularly concerning', as an online survey of 1,263 people also carried out in October found that one in three people didn't realise that taking too much of some supplements could damage your health.

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: “We’re concerned that people are being taken for a ride, needlessly paying a premium for many products on the basis of health claims that haven’t been backed up by scientific evidence.

"We want to see the European Commission release a list of accepted and rejected claims as soon as possible, so that consumers won’t continue to be bamboozled by health claims they can’t trust.

“With many supplements also failing to carry voluntary warnings about high levels of vitamins and minerals you can overdose on, it’s also necessary that safe levels are agreed as soon as possible.”

This article was published on Mon 20 December 2010

Image © Glenn Jenkinson -

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