Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Supplement or not to Supplement?

I was reading an otherwise very informative blog about how to maintain "healthy skin" but my thought processes jammed on the phrase "A multivitamin helps insure you receive all the vitamins and minerals your body requires. This, in turn, helps maintain healthier-looking skin and a vivacious energy level".

I was "aroused" enough to send a tweet to the writer to ask why the need for vitamin supplementation if someone was already on a healthy balanced diet. Apparently even those who think they are on a healthy balanced diet might might benefit from a multivitamin supplement because ..... their diet might not provide all the necessary vitamins they need!

I would be the first to hold up my hand and say that we are still discovering new "truths" each and every day and my knowledge definitely has limits, but I've always baulked at the idea that taking vitamins and minerals is essential to live a full and healthy life - especially one full with vivacious energy! I am a great believer that if you have a varied diet, you'll get all the good stuff your body needs.

Vitamin supplements, which are expensive, contain Vitamins A, B, C and E - some will have D too.

Here's some interesting facts:

Review of the benefits of vitamins has shown that high dose supplementation with Vitamin A - or beta carotene - actually increases the rate of cancer of the lung by 18%, so the "era" of vitamin A finished back in the '80s. Next came Vit B which is a complex of several substances the most well known being Folic acid. There is no doubt that pregnant women should take Folic acid as a supplement to reduce the risk of "Neural Tube Defects" - spinal bifida et al. Also, those with an alcohol related problem are often deficient in Folic acid and at risk of developing mental disorders that can be improved by Folic acid supplementation. So in specific instances, Folic acid is excellent, but the downside is that high dose Folic acid supplementation is actually associated with an increase in Colonic adenoma - the precursors to bowel cancer: the moral to Folic acid is to "pick your target"!

Vitamin C is probably known to every school child as the thing that you need to take to prevent scurvy - a nasty affliction of the skin that long distant sailors suffered from back in the times when tall masted ships sailed the seven seas. But it's promised glory as a wonder medication to reduce risks of cancer have never materialized despite many very large scientific trials.

Vitamin E was the big hope as early reports found that it may help heart patients. Alas, it didn't help heart patients - it actually increased mortality;  and it's hoped for help with prostate cancer also has proved illusory as it actually increases the risk for prostate cancer!

Now we are in the era of vitamin D which is essential for maintaining healthy bones and reducing fractures in older people. Recent reports are suggesting a benefit with cancer rates and depression which may prove to be real: but so did the others.

My conclusion is that there are those who have a genuine deficit of these vitamins and they may need supplementation, but the only way you can KNOW you have a deficit is to get it measured: in other words go to your Doc and have a check. If you are deficient, get a supplement and then get it checked again later to see if you've corrected it. But for most of us there may be a danger in over-supplementing an otherwise healthy diet with unnecessary vitamins. In fact, a healthy balanced diet is far safer and far "Healthier" than taking supplements.

If you want to be reassured about your diet, then check with a registered Dietician: in the long run it will prove far more cost effective and a far more healthy option.
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Anonymous said...

I'm of two minds about vitamins and supplements. Our diet should be enough to maintain optimum health but what about all these genetically modified foods we are eating...are they actually rich in vitamins minerals proteins etc or are they "dead"? We do take some supplements...the husband takes a multi for men over 50 and wild fish oil. I take glucosamine with msm, vitamin c, and d, calcium (I am allergic to dairy), silica and st johns wort. Come summer when I am outside more I will drop the vitamin d. When one of us feels a cold coming on we does up on c and ecchinacea. I have stopped colds dead in their tracks with this combination. Maybe it's all in my head but even so..it works for me.

Mariodacatsmom said...

Our doctor feels the same as you do. He does have me taking calcium because I don't eat that much dairy to get it naturally. I think if you eat a well balanced diet with all of the food groups and don't boil all the vitamins out of the veges, you should be okay.