Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Vitamins often a waste of money,  says Australian consumer watchdog

POPPING a daily multivitamin pill could be a waste of time and money, says consumer watchdog Choice.

Healthy individuals who already eat a balanced diet but also take multivitamins could be spending money unnecessarily, an investigation by Choice found.

Although there is sometimes clinical evidence to support taking a supplement, the doses can often be way below levels required to have a significant impact, the organisation said.

"If you have a healthy diet and you're not a person with specific nutritional requirements, there's a good chance you're wasting your money," Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said.

"At 20 to 70 cents per day for multivitamin products we priced, the 'worried well' can spend several hundred dollars a year simply by taking a daily pill.

"Marketing messages, often backed up by high-profile sporting celebrities, give the impression that we all need multivitamins to be fit and healthy," she said in a statement.

People taking a range of multivitamins without checking the recommended daily intake (RDI) requirements could be exceeding the RDI for some vitamins and potentially putting their health at risk, as not all vitamins are safe in high doses.

But most multivitamins contain lower doses of ingredients so it's harder for them to be over-consumed, the investigation found.

Vitamin labelling could also confuse consumers, with some labels stating the vitamin name such as B3, while others using the chemical name, niacin.

"An untrained person probably wouldn't know that the two things are one and the same," Ms Just said.

Manufacturers of products sold in Australia are not required to list how each ingredient amount relates to RDI.

"We want manufacturers to list vitamin and mineral values according to the percentage of an appropriate RDI in each dose to help consumers compare apples with apples," Choice's investigation concluded.

Multivitamins are big business, with Choice identifying eight different multivitamin products marketed by both Blackmores and Nature's Own, 11 by Nature's Way and 16 by Swisse.

But some groups definitely benefit from supplements, including pregnant women taking folate before and after conception, the study pointed out.

Choice recommends individuals consult a dietician or GP about their nutritional needs before opting for multivitamin or other supplements.


Obesity crisis over? Scientists discover way to turn 'bad' fat into 'good' fat

It's a long way from practical application however -- and the side effects could be daunting

Scientists have taken a leap forward in the battle against the bulge by discovering how to turn fat into muscle.

The discovery could prove a milestone in tackling diabetes and obesity, which costs the NHS an estimated £4 billion a year, a financial toll which is rising every year.

People have two types of fat - 'bad' white fat which stores energy and accumulates from not exercising enough, and 'good' muscle-like brown fat which burns it.

Researchers have discovered a switch that can turn white fat into brown, which would speed up a person's metabolism and tackle that paunch.

Fat can be "browned" using drugs called thiazolidazines (TZDs), by activating a cell called ppar-gamma, which increases the body's sensitivity to insulin.

But doctors have steered clear of using these drugs because of their harmful side effects which include liver toxicity, bone loss, and, ironically, weight gain.

By studying mice and human fat tissue, scientists at Columbia University Medical Centre in America found that white fat is converted into brown fat when the activity of enzymes called sirtuins increases.

They created a mutant version of the ppar-gamma, in effect mimicking the actions of sirtuins, converting white fat into brown.

The finding, which appears today in the online journal Cell, opens up the possibility to inventing new ways to tackle obesity - one of the biggest threat to health in the UK claiming up to 30,000 lives a year.

The study's lead author Domenico Accili, professor of Medicine at Columbia University, said: 'Turning white fat into brown fat is an appealing therapeutic approach to staunching the obesity epidemic, but it has been difficult to do so in a safe and effective way.'

She added: 'Our findings have two important implications. First, they suggest that TZDs may not be so bad - if you can find a way to tweak their activity.

'Second, one way to tweak their activity is by using sirtuin agonists, that is, drugs that promote sirtuin activity.'

In 2009, almost a quarter of adults (22 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women) in the UK were classified as obese.


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