Should you take multivitamin supplements?
According to a recent Australian study, the answer is probably not. Most supplements tested did little good, and some appeared to actually do harm. Although vitamins are necessary for human life, taking them in artificial form means missing out on phytochemicals—the other molecules of value we get by eating fruits and vegetables. How this might make an important difference is yet to be understood. But let’s take a look at specific findings of the study.
Researchers combined the results of 179 studies, analyzing them as if they were one large study (meta-analysis). Four popular supplements supplying vitamins C and D and calcium showed no reduction in heart disease or stroke, but no harm either. (Calcium is given to prevent weak bones; vitamins C and D are included to help absorption of calcium.) Supplements containing vitamin D alone showed no reduction in early death, although further time may be needed to find any possible benefits.
Folic acid (vitamin B9), on the other hand, showed a slight reduction in heart disease and stroke in certain populations. In a well-designed study of 20,000 Chinese individuals, stroke was reduced, although it should be noted that breads and breakfast cereals in China are not supplemented with folic acid, as they are in the United States and Australia. A total of 111 people would have to take folic acid supplements to prevent one case of heart disease, and 167 people would have to take the supplement to prevent one stroke. On the negative side, there was some indication that folic acid supplementation could be associated with prostate cancer.
Can vitamin supplements decrease your life span?
Some supplements were actually associated with increased risk of early death. Among patients being treated with statins for lowering blood cholesterol levels, supplementation with vitamin B3 (niacin) raised the risk of premature death by 10%. A total of 200 patients taking statins would have to take niacin before one case of early death took place.
Taking nutrients in pill form supplies only what’s on the label, and patients miss out on phytonutrients, or plant nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Getting a good, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies is recommended by nutritionists over taking the factory versions. Although vitamins found in supplements appear chemically identical to those found in plants, instant coffee and brewed coffee appear the same chemically too. Coffee drinkers can tell the difference.
How can I get more vitamins naturally?
To get folate from nature, eat green leafy veggies, legumes (beans), seeds, eggs, cereals, and citrus fruits. Niacin is found in good quantities in milk, eggs, wholegrains and cereals, nuts, leafy green veggies, and high protein foods.
The vitamin industry is a huge billion-dollar business and relies on people buying their products. However, vitamin supplements are generally a bad idea unless your diet is not balanced (this may include vegans or vegetarian diets, or diets without enough fruits or vegetables) or if you have any medical conditions that prevent your body from properly absorbing the vitamins in food.