Well, in answer to their question, I hope not. Let me lay out this recent research publication, what it shows, and what it doesn't.
Highlights of the publication are that it was an epidemiological study, gathering self-reported data from tens of thousands of elderly white women over 18 years.
When controlling for (data analysis attempting to factor in differences of) age, height, education, a few chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, hormone replacement), activity level and smokers, it found these affects on the hazard ratio (increase risk of death):
- Iron supplementation was linked to increased morbidity and mortality relative to non-supplement users.
- Calcium supplementation was linked to decreased morbidity and mortality relative to non-supplement users (up to 1300mg daily).
- All the other supplements were not found to have a significant effect. The others were various vitamins (multi, A, beta-carotene, B6, folic acid, B complex, C, D, E) and minerals (copper, magnesium, selenium, zinc)
Here's a few points to consider when evaluating how to use journal publications like this when making health care considerations:
- The supplements were self reported, so we can't speak to their potency and purity (cheaper brands are commonly found to be contaminated and often include non-absorbable forms [read: goes right through you]).
- This study was epidemiologic, so it just looks at the state of things and not influencing or changing any behavior (such as a randomized controlled trial), so we don't know why or when any of the research participants started their supplementation. Was it because of a known disease or disease risk factor? Did they start it after watching Dr. Oz, or at the recommendation of a healthcare provider? We don't know the reasoning.
- Iron is a known oxidizing substance when it is not biologically needed. For post-menopausal women who are not anemic, iron is known to be detrimental, not beneficial. Perhaps they were told to take iron during their pre-menopausal years and kept up with it out of habit- we're not sure the rationale.
And this makes sense to me. I don't expect any given supplement to decrease mortality rates across tens of thousands of people. I do, however, expect them to work for most people when specifically indicated (B6 for nerve and adrenal support, or magnesium for vasodilation and muscle relaxation).
For those interested in positive effects found of supplementation of the mid-aged and elderly as reported by NIH, please check out the articles here and here. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "modest" supplementation of middle-aged women slowed the aging process. You can find that article here.
In general, I hope that those of you interested in your health are taking supplements for well-indicated reasons from knowledgeable sources, although the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids was beneficial for anyone (the article here called it a "metabolic tune-up").
The issue as to supplements' efficacy and beneficence will not be resolved with a single publication. I anticipate following the research-lead discourse for some tim. Please let me know if you'd like more information about specific supplements and research outcomes. Thank you for reading.