Take your vitamins! Or don’t?

Posted on October 13, 2011


Ok, in all fairness, I have to disclose a few things. The first being that I’m the ultimate skeptic.  It didn’t surprise me in the slightest to read the most recent data on the effectiveness of taking extra doses of vitamins.

What did surprise me, was that there may be a risk involved.  According to the New York Times, “Two new studies add to the growing body of evidence that taking extra doses of vitamins can do more harm than good.”

The big ‘E’ did nothing for more than 35,000 men being studied. In fact, they were about 17% more likely to develop prostate cancer–which I think is pretty compelling.

Another study of almost 40,000 women found that those who consumed large quantities of supplements were actually a little more likely to die sooner than those who consumed none.

Among the women in the Iowa study, about 63 percent used supplements at the start of the study, but that number had grown to 85 percent by 2004. Use of multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper were all associated with increased risk of death. The findings translate to a 2.4 percent increase in absolute risk for multivitamin users, a 4 percent increase associated with vitamin B6, a 5.9 percent increase for folic acid, and increases of 3 to 4 percent in risk for those taking supplements of iron, folic acid, magnesium and zinc.

So it’s interesting food for thought.  For decades now, the idea that antioxidants might be the saving grace against cancer and other disease has been pushed down our throats in the form of bulky tablets that sort of gurgle around in your belly and cause a little indigestion here and there. But the studies don’t back it up. And this brings me back to one of my most serious complaints about the Western world.

Why is it that we are so willing to put something in our body based on a package?  Think about it. We see this with food consumption, with vitamins, with skin care, with products of all kinds. Instead of viewing are bodies as exquisite and perfect masterpieces and ourselves as the vigilant gatekeepers whose job it is to protect…off we go popping pills without a second thought.

Need more evidence?

A January 2009 editorial in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute noted that most studies of vitamins had shown no cancer benefits, but some had shown unexpected harms. Two studies of beta carotene found higher lung cancer rates, and another study suggested a higher risk of precancerous polyps among users of folic acid compared with those in a placebo group.

It’s important to remember that supplements are not regulated. We have literally no idea where they are manufactured (not where they are distributed from!) or what’s really in them. Many many supplements have tested high in lead and other contaminants. Big name brands. Big box brands.

Just something to think about…

Posted in: Mindfullness