When you take a vitamin supplement, you miss out on the tiny superpowers that nature has packed into plants around us, called phytonutrients. To get all the vitamins and minerals you need, nutritionists suggest chowing down on plenty of fruits and vegetables because the factory-made pill versions just can’t compete.
Are vitamin supplements bad for me?
According to a recent Australian study, most supplements tested did little good, and some appeared to actually do harm. 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.
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.
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.
Remember, the vitamin industry is a billion-dollar business and relies on people like you to buy their products. Vitamin supplements may be helpful if 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. Otherwise, try your best to fuel your body naturally.