Vitamins and mineral supplements are often touted for helping with energy, weight loss, stress, anti-aging and many other worries. These claims do have a grain of truth, but little else. Though supplements can help some things, they cannot cure ailments.
Normal healthy people should not need supplements or vitamins. Certain people will benefit from them for periods of time, such as pregnant women needing extra calcium or people with compromised immune systems or vitamin absorption issues. However, most people should not be taking supplements routinely throughout their lifetime.
1. More Vitamin Intake Is Not Better
Supplement means added – that is, in addition to regular diet. Vitamins and supplements are for people that don’t get enough through their regular meals. A healthy diet rich in grain, protein, fruits, and vegetables won’t typically require extra supplements. If the diet is sufficient, extra vitamins will only be passed out of the body as waste.
Medicare acknowledges that most vitamin deficiencies are nutritional in origin, and has rather strict criteria for allowing reimbursement on medical tests or prescriptions. Presumably, taking care of one’s health would make treatment irrelevant.
2. The Immune System Works Best When Boosted Naturally
Having a strong immune system is one way of ensuring and maintaining optimal health. With compromised immune systems, viruses and diseases enter the body more easily and the body takes longer to recover. Also, a strong immune system helps keep tumor cells dormant. However, supplements are not natural. Nature Supplies recommends boosting immune systems naturally with a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet high in fruits, grains and vegetables and low in saturated fats. Their best advice is consuming raw vegetables and fruits, plenty of water, raw garlic, getting more rest and taking in 20-45 minutes of sun everyday. While some benefits can be attained through vitamins, nothing beats the real thing.
3. Stress Relief Happens Naturally
Although people use time consuming activities to fight stress, while most stress is caused by a lack of time. Eating, which people generally do anyway, is also the most natural and beneficial way to fight stress. Serenity Health has a list of foods that naturally relieve stress, many of which work to keep cortisol and adrenaline under control as well as lower blood pressure. While eating can be good for stress, make sure they are natural foods, not sugary snacks or chemical-laden things like ramen noodles.
4. Supplements Are Not Regulated
Coming straight from the FDA: “Dietary supplements are not approved by the government for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. If the dietary supplement contains a NEW ingredient, that ingredient will be reviewed by FDA (not approved) prior to marketing — but only for safety, not effectiveness.” Similar to the way fast food restaurants can put anything they want into food, supplement manufacturers can put all kinds of chemicals in pill form and there is no oversight until someone gets sick or dies as a direct cause.
Medications are put through a rigorous development and approval system that takes eight to twelve years for safety and effectiveness. Supplements, on the other hand, can be marketed to consumers until they are proven unsafe. Manufacturers are not required to test the supplements in clinical trials to find potential risks or interactions with other substances.
5. It Is Possible To Overdose On Vitamins
A study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that Vitamin A and Manganese have potentially serious adverse effects at high intakes, while Iron and Vitamin C may have minor and reversible adverse effects that may be associated with supplement intake. The risk of harm depends on the safe intake range of a given nutrient, susceptibility of the individual, and how much of the nutrient comes through other means. The verdict on any of supplements is controversial, however, and while the above journal didn’t find iron overly harmful, Livestrong noted that iron could potentially be fatal in a one-time overdose. It’s certainly something a pregnant woman would want to be more cautious about taking.
6. Multivitamins May Be More Harmful Than Good
The controversy gets particularly interesting where it concerns Beta Carotene, Vitamin A and, especially, Vitamin E. Numerous studies exist on Vitamin E and the adverse effects, such as an increase in mortality, an increase in prostate cancer in men and an increased risk of heart failure in patients with vascular disease or diabetes.
There is a lot of reason to not take supplements at all. While beta carotene showed a potential increase of lung cancer in male smokers, overall there were signs that it may be both beneficial and harmful. Forbes has a list of vitamins that you should never take, which they updated to also include vitamin D (see below).The Atlantic Monthly also outlined a number of supplements that may actually be killing consumers.
7. Supplements Are Expensive
Some professionals claim that spending a little now on supplements will save billions in health care in the future. Meanwhile, consumers spend over $30 billion annually, with some individuals spending over $100 per month, on supplements with exaggerated claims and unsupported claims of effectiveness.
Vitamin D may be the biggest waste of money. Forbes research added it to their list of vitamins not to take because the claims that it helps bone density might not be even a little bit true. At the best, consumers are simply wasting their money.
To top it all off, many supplements contain 100% of the recommended daily intake of a given nutrient, which is to say that a person would be overdoing things unless they consume no other food containing certain nutrients at all. On the whole, research suggests that if consumers are to spend more money, to spend it on more fresh foods.
As with any medical advice, doctors or pharmacists can help a consumer ensure they are not getting too much or too little of a certain vitamin or that supplements are not interfering with medications already prescribed. For an extensive overview, please see the National Institutes of Health fact sheets of dietary supplements.
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