Why Multivitamins Might Do More Harm Than Good

“Even until today, there is still a debate whether taking vitamins is really beneficial and if it could really fill the gap of our nutritional deficiency. Well, no matter what the experts say, it is up to the consumers what to believe in.”

 

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(C) http://greatist.com/

If you’re anything like me, taking vitamins was a part of your daily routine as a kid. At the time, I cared more about which flavor Flintstone chewable I got than the nutritional info behind the pill-sized likeness of Barney, Fred, or Wilma.

As I outgrew my beloved Flintstone chewables, I stopped taking a daily multivitamin in high school and college. But by the time I got to graduate school, I started to think more about my health and wondered if I should begin taking vitamin supplements again. As a PhD student in molecular biology, I have a habit of reading scientific studies in my spare time, so I started researching vitamin supplements to determine which ones were worth adding to my very tight budget.

I was surprised by what I found. Nutrition research can be a contentious field, with experts arguing about what’s really good for you. (Is coffee shaving years off your life or giving you a health boost?) But across the board, peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled scientific studies have consistently shown that vitamin supplements don’t prevent disease. And, in some cases, they might increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality.

Researchers, such as Regan Bailey at the National Institutes of Health, are unsure where Americans get the idea that they should take a daily multivitamin for better health. “It’s not from the doctors,” says Bailey, a nutritional epidemiologist in the NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. “The majority of scientific data available does not support the role of dietary supplements for improving health or preventing disease.”

And yet, half of Americans today regularly take vitamin supplements. Half. Besides the obvious role of marketing, why do so many of us allow ourselves to believe that vitamins are good for us with little proof? Have we become a society that believes we can correct an unhealthy lifestyle with a daily pill?

The Need for Vitamins

When I use the term vitamin here, I’m referring to chemical compounds with the word “vitamin” in front—such as vitamin A, which helps maintain good vision—but also things like calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene that serve similar functions in the body.

There’s no denying that prolonged deficiency of certain vitamins can lead to illness and disease. The real question, though, is whether vitamin supplements are necessary for healthy individuals.

If you eat a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, there’s a good chance you already reach your suggested daily intake. And even if you eat a less-than-stellar diet, many types of processed foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals.

If you are taking a vitamin supplement in addition to eating well and consuming some fortified foods, you may be reaching vitamin levels much higher than the FDA and NIH recommend.

Multivitamins’ Dark Side

To visualize the downside of overdosing on vitamins, let’s consider an analogy. Would you take a powerful antibiotic every day, just in case? That kind of attitude leads to the kind of antibiotic resistant bacteria we’ve seen recently.

So why do we think it’s okay to have a just-in-case attitude when it comes to multivitamins? Certainly individuals at risk for a vitamin deficiency due to a poor diet or a preexisting medical condition should consider supplementing with a multivitamin to address that deficiency. But, if you’re otherwise healthy and don’t …

 

Read more: http://greatist.com/grow/why-you-dont-need-a-multivitamin

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