If taking multivitamins is part of your daily routine, what follows may just convince you to reconsider. Most people tend to believe that vitamin supplements are excellent for their health. Yet, across the board, research conducted on supplements found that placebo-controlled scientific studies have consistently shown that vitamin supplements do not in actual fact prevent disease.
In fact, in some cases, they might do the exact opposite - upping your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality. Researcher Regan Bailey, at the National Institutes of Health says that he is unsure "where Americans get the idea that they should take a daily multivitamin for better health", stating that "this advice does not come from doctors" and that the "majority of scientific data available does not support the role of dietary supplement for improving health or preventing disease." Nevertheless, half of Americans today regularly take vitamin supplements.
Why do we need vitamins?
And by vitamins, I'm not only referring to nutrients like vitamin A (which helps maintain good vision), but other minerals too, such as calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene, all of which serve similar functions in the body. Prolonged deficiency of certain vitamins can lead to illness and disease, so in some cases, taking vitamins is vital.
But, are vitamin supplements necessary for healthy individuals? A varied diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains would presumably mean that you are already reaching your suggested daily intake. But, even if your diet is not top-notch, many types of processed foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals too. So, taking a vitamin supplement in addition to eating well and consuming fortified foods may mean that your vitamin levels are higher than what is recommended.
The dark side of multivitamins
Is it possible to overdose on vitamins? Consider this analogy: Would you take a powerful antibiotic every day, just in case? So, why do we think that it's okay to have multivitamins, just in case? Needless to say, individuals at risk of a vitamin deficiency, due to a poor diet, or a preexisting medical condition should consider supplementing with a multivitamin to address that deficiency. However, in healthy individuals who don't suspect a deficiency, the downsides of multivitamins easily outweigh the benefits.
Are multivitamins too much of a good thing?
What happens when you start pumping too many vitamins and minerals into your body? Studies on the effects of multivitamin use in more than 400,000 patients found that individuals who took a daily supplement had an increased mortality rate. In a 2007 study, women who took multivitamin supplements (vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc) increased their risk of developing skin cancer. Clearly, multivitamin supplements do have alarming effects. But, can a single vitamin supplement still hold benefits for the body? Unfortunately, for healthy adults, probably not.
Vitamin A: This vitamin is responsible for vision and the immune system. It is found in bright yellow and orange fruits, and vegetables. Add a quarter cup of sweet potatoes, a third cup of butternut squash or half a medium-sized carrot to get your recommended daily value. Vitamin A can also be found in dark leafy greens - a cup of kale or two cups of spinach will give you your daily fix. Most breakfast cereals also contain 100 percent of the recommended daily value per serving.
Getting too much: According to a number of studies, too much vitamin A ingested through supplements has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing lung cancer among smokers. In one study, the supplement increased lung cancer by as much as 28 percent.
Vitamin E: This fantastic antioxidant can be found in wheat germ, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and vegetable oils. Cereal will also give you nearly half of your recommended daily value of vitamin E.
Getting too much: Too much vitamin E can seriously impact your health. One study found that excessive amounts increased a patients' risk of heart failure. Supplemental vitamin E also correlated with increased mortality rates in another study. In a 2011 study conducted on 35,000 men, showed that excessive vitamin E supplements significantly increased the risk of prostate cancer.
Calcium: Usually recommended to women to build stronger bones as they age. But in addition to the usual tablet form, three cups of milk and two cups of yogurt or tofu can provide you with your recommended daily value of calcium. Fortified sources such as soy or almond milk provide the same benefit.
Getting too much: Despite calcium being needed for stronger bones, a study found that patients taking calcium supplements were at risk of a hip fracture. Furthermore, it was found that those taking calcium supplements were at a higher risk of death from cardiovascular.
So, unless your doctor advises you to take a supplement, there is no real benefit to taking vitamins. In fact, they may just do you more harm than good!