Monday, October 24, 2011

The Vitamin Debate: Con (Part 1)

Do you need to take a daily multivitamin (MVI)?  Is there validity to doubling up on vitamin C when a cold is on the horizon?  The debate regarding dietary supplements is controversial and not exactly clear cut.  I decided to approach this topic as a 2 part series to cover all the sides.  I’m not going to tell you what to do because everyone is different and requires individual plans to meet one’s daily nutrient needs.  Look at all the sides and talk to your Doctor if you have special medical concerns.

 If you walk into the average American home you are bound to find a variety of vitamins and minerals lining the cabinet shelves.  Dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and botanicals, have become quite trendy these past few years.  Truthfully, people have been using herbs and botanicals for over 2000 years as forms of alternative medicine but the amount of processed “bottled” herbs has grown notably in popularity.  Some examples of botanical supplements are Echinacea, Black Cohosh, Fenugreek, and Ginkgo.  Popular vitamins/minerals include D, E, K, C, and calcium.  

 Keep in mind regarding the negatives of dietary supplements:
  • They don’t have the same rigorous standards as prescription drugs i.e. they don’t have to be tested for effectiveness and safety before they are sold so it’s hard to know if and how they’ll work.  Dietary supplements are only required by the FDA to list the contents, amount of active component per serving, and any added ingredients like flavoring or fillers.  Unlike prescription drugs, these specifications don’t tell us much.
  • They may interact with your medications i.e. Coumadin and vitamin K; St. John’s Wort may reduce the effectiveness of some drugs for depression or seizures.
  • If a health claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Some vitamins have toxicity levels such as vitamin A, D, E, and K so make sure those vitamins on the label are less than 100% and don’t take a MVI and a separate pill of those vitamins
  • The added fillers and colorings in MVIs make it hard for the body to absorb so most of the vitamin is excreted in the urine
  • Excessive supplementation may have side effects i.e. too much vitamin C may cause diarrhea; extra calcium and vitamin E may raise the risk of prostate cancer
  • Make sure there is no phosphorus in your MVI since it interferes with calcium absorption and is abundant in the American diet

These are some of the reasons supplements may not be the best way to get your nutrients.  Sign up on the right to receive notifications of new blog posts via e-mail and stay tuned for the second part on supplements.

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