A National Research Council report that said vitamin pills and some other dietary supplements are useless and perhaps harmful was denounced as "a disservice to all Americans" by a trade group.

The group, called the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said that the NRC report released Wednesday failed to acknowledge what it called "emerging research" on benefits from supplements of vitamins, fiber and calcium."The NRC report provides only a shallow review of the evidence on the benefits of nutritional supplements and fails to reflect the tide of research that supports those benefits," the trade association said in a prepared statement.

The NRC on Wednesday released a 1,300-page report that is a compilation by 19 experts of research from many sources related to diet and health. The three-year study concluded that health is best maintained by a balanced diet of a variety of foods in a diet that is reduced in fat and salt and enriched with fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

The study said the NRC committee found no conclusive evidence that taking doses of supplemental vitamins, fiber or calcium would provide protection from cancer, heart disease, embrittlement of bones or other ailments.

Annette Dickinson, a nutrition expert and a spokeswoman for the trade group, said the NRC finding is unrealistic because it did not recognize that the food eaten by many Americans does not include all the nutrients in the recommended dietary allowance developed by the federal government.

"People simply are not getting those required amounts," Dickinson said . "We believe that it is better that they get them (nutrients) somewhere" than not at all.

She said the NRC study is "backing away" from the use of a number of supplements that have been shown to be "quite effective." She said that the report springs from a bias against supplements in favor of a balanced diet.

Dickinson acknowledged that research reports on the value of supplements have had mixed results historically and admitted that "there is a lot of bias on both sides" about their use.

The NRC study said that dietary supplements was a $3 billion business in 1987, and that many doctors, nurses and nutritionists take multivitamins and other supplements. It said many people self-prescribe supplements containing nutrients far in excess of the RDA set by the federal government.