Most of us take vitamins every day in an effort to stay healthy, but decades of research has failed to find any evidence that this practice is beneficial. In fact, studies have found that certain vitamins actually do more harm than good to your health.
Vitamin C boosts your immune system. Vitamin A protects your vision. Vitamin B helps you stay energized. But medical experts say it’s better for you to intake those vitamins and minerals, too, from food and not from supplements. In fact, when you consume vitamins and minerals both in your food and in supplement form, the excess can harm you.
Physicians from the United States, Finland, Korea and Norway teamed up to study 39,000 older women in a 25-year window to see just how the women’s health fared on multivitamins. What they found was alarming.
Some vitamins and minerals have been linked to an increase in certain cancers while others can lead to premature death. People should pay heed, because in the U.S. alone, consumers spend more than $20 billion annually on dietary supplements. But there are some vitamins and other supplements that your body truly needs that cannot be supplemented completely through food. Here is what you need to know.
Vitamin B3 proponents claim it can treat everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s. But a study two years ago that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine of more than 25,000 people with existing heart disease found that long-acting doses of vitamin B3 to raise good, or HDL, cholesterol actually did nothing to reduce the incidents of heart attack, stroke or death. Furthermore, people in the study who took vitamin B3 supplements were more likely than those taking a placebo to develop infections, liver problems and internal bleeding.
The levels of vitamin D most people need cannot be consumed through food, nor is it present in most of the commonly eaten foods. But it’s needed to help keep bones strong. Sunlight is the main way to help the body produce vitamin D, but in states where wintertime limits sun exposure, people experience a deficit. In fact, one study discovered that people who went ahead and took a vitamin D supplement daily lived longer than others who didn’t.
The healthful antioxidants vitamins A and E are found in many fruits and veggies and are known for their cancer-fighting powers. But when taken in excess, these antioxidants actually can be harmful. One study showed that disease prevention efforts relying on beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E actually may increase mortality. Another study of 36,000 men showed that taking vitamin e ended up increasing their risk of prostate cancer compared to those who took a placebo.
When you have the sniffles, vitamin C pops into your mind. But the megadoses available over-the-counter of 2,000 milligrams or more actually can increase the risk for developing painful kidney stones. So if you feel a cold coming on, increase your intake of citrus fruits and other foods naturally high in vitamin C.
Probiotics really do help alleviate gastrointestinal issues for some people. But supporters say that the supplement form of this bacterial supplement costs so much more than what’s found naturally in yogurt and similarly fermented foods. So try both and see which one you think works the best.
Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to take folic acid, a B vitamin that the body uses to generate new cells. The National Institutes of Health recommends that women who are currently pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily because their bodies demand more of this key nutrient when they are carrying a growing fetus.
Zinc has been touted as a bit immune system booster when you’re sick, more so than vitamin C. Studies show that this mineral interferes with the replication of rhinoviruses, the very bug that causes the common cold. One study shows taking zinc can cut a cold’s duration by one day and lessen symptoms.
So the next time you reach for vitamin C with a cold or think a supplement may be the answer to an ailment, do your research and see what the latest trustworthy medical information says. It just might save your life.