Vitamins and dietary supplements are hugely popular. So much so that each year over 110 million Americans actually spend around $30 billion on them – but do these vitamin supplements actually work for providing necessary nutritional health benefits?
The most popular of the supplements are multivitamins, which may be taken for no better reason than having a poor nutritional health diet.
Apparently it’s ok to eat a lot fast foods and processed foods while largely ignoring fruits and vegetables, with the attitude that ‘I can get all my vitamins and minerals from a supplement’.
And of course, there is a tremendous amount of commercials and marketing promoting vitamin supplements as a way to balance and improve the nutrition is one’s diet. Or, they give reasons for why you are getting enough nutrition from the foods that you eat, so you need to take vitamins.
And I thought those Krispy Kreme donuts and McDonalds fries had all the nutrition that I needed
Studies by the Nielsen Company show that North America has the highest consumption of vitamins and dietary supplements, and 2 of the top 3 reasons for doing so are:
- To cover for a known diet deficiency
- To ensure my diet is balanced
And what was one of the most infrequent reasons given – because I was advised by my healthcare professional. I guess that those who should know best aren’t so enamored with the idea of vitamin supplements as nutrition.
Vitamin Supplements Studies And Research
When looking for research and studies addressing the nutritional health benefits from vitamin supplements, the results are clearly mixed and can be difficult to evaluate.
For instance, there are numerous studies that strongly recommend vitamin supplements. But how many of these are being funded by pharmaceutical companies and those that have a vested interest in supplement sales?
And there is increasing research showing that not only do the supplements not have health benefits, there are different cases where they might actually be harmful.
“The better the quality of the research, the less benefit [supplements] showed,” says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. “It’s fair to say from the research that supplements don’t make healthy people healthier.”
Below are a few examples of some information learned from different health professionals and vitamin supplement studies:
- David Agus, who is a physician and author, pointed out that in 50 large-scale supplement studies there was none showing benefits for cancer or cardiovascular disease.
- Dee Sandquist, who is a Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson and registered dietician, said the following: “As Americans, we think more is better, but that’s not the case with vitamins” – and further mentioned problems from taking vitamin A C E in excess.
- The clinical trial SELECT, which was developed to study supplementing with selenium and vitamin E for preventing prostate cancer – the results not only showed no positive effects, the increased vitamin E may actually raise the chance of prostate cancer, while the selenium may increase the risk of diabetes.
- The Journal of the National Cancer Institute warned that most studies on vitamins showed no benefits for cancer, and some caused more harm – in particular, supplemental amounts of beta carotene [a type of proformed vitamin A] were found to have higher rates of lung cancer.
And there are many more studies, where the aggregate says that vitamin supplement usage can be harmful to the user over time – leading to an increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, and fractured bones.
Synthetic And Single Vitamin Supplement Usage
When you consider how tremendously beneficial and critical vitamins are for our nutritional health, it becomes somewhat surreal to read all of the studies that say vitamin supplements may actually be harmful – what is leading to these research results?
There are a number of reasons for why vitamin supplement studies are coming up with conflicting results to what we know nutritionally about vitamins:
- The vitamin supplements are made from synthetic vitamins instead of the whole food vitamins we get from food
- The research and studies are showing the effects from supplements made from single vitamins instead of the complex of vitamins that we get from food
Thus, to that extent, the results of the research, when compared to our need for vitamins, are skewed – because the synthetic vitamins studied are not complete and the same as what would be provided by whole foods.
And besides the synthetic vitamins not being ‘real’ and providing their intended health benefits, they can become harmful overtime . This also occurs in the studies and in actual usage, when mega doses above the upper recommended limits are being taken.
It should be noted that a real whole food vitamin supplement may seem to have higher dosages. But this is more capsules and not higher milligrams meant to give you ‘extra’ vitamins – you just can’t ‘stuff’ as much in like is done in the synthetic vitamin supplements.
As the highly regarded nutritionist Judith DeCava explains in The Real Truth about Vitamins and Antioxidants:
“This is what occurs with all synthetic vitamins: the body treats them as toxins, leading to the ‘expensive urine’ of excess vitamin intake referred to frequently, since the human system via the urinary tract attempts to rid itself of the major quantity of such foreign chemicals.”
“Natural food-source vitamins are enzymatically alive. Man-made synthetic vitamins are dead chemicals.”
The further problem with synthetic vitamins, and what is leading to the harmful effects found in the studies, is the usage of single vitamins. Compare this to vitamins from whole foods, and more information from Judith DeCava:
“Separating the group of compounds in a vitamin complex can verse it from a physiological, biochemical, active micronutrient into a disabled, debilitated chemical of little or no value to living cells. The synergy is gone.”
Whole food vitamins are recognized by our bodies as intended by nature. They are the complete vitamin and are not missing various components that are needed for effectiveness, or that can cause imbalances that can actually lead to increased symptoms and other harmful effects.
And as many studies and research are showing, this is the impact of taking synthetic vitamin supplements, especially when they are single vitamins in mega doses.
Whole Food Vitamin Supplements
Again, I will ask the question: Are vitamin supplements beneficial for nutritional health?
There is definitely a case for vitamin supplements, if it is recognized as supplementation that might ‘fill-in’ something that is missing – and not as meal replacements, or in an attempt to overcome a nutritionally unhealthy diet.
Additionally, a person may have a vitamin deficiency or a specific health issue that requires some additional supplementation. And there is a growing problem from farming practices that has caused soil demineralization, which can decrease the amounts of vitamins and minerals that should be available from food.
But not if the vitamins are synthetic and extra high doses of individual vitamins. If that is what is being done, like the ongoing studies are continually showing, there are increased health risks from those practices.
I think that it is very clear that the best thing to do is get your nutrition a whole food nutritional health diet. I didn’t find any studies that said not to eat vegetables and fruits, because the vitamins are going to hurt me.
I know that I eat well, but just like I have decided to get some extra protein and greens by blending them into smoothies, and also take omega-3 dha and coq10 ubiquinol supplements – I also take a multivitamin supplement.
But what I take certainly isn’t a synthetic or single vitamin supplement, and neither does it have excessive amounts of any vitamin.
The supplement I take is a whole food vitamin supplement called MegaFood Daily Foods Men’s.
For instance it is an iron free formula, and it does have what they call a ‘men’s strengthening blend’ for things like prostate health. And I also like being sure that I am getting enough vitamin D3, instead of vitamin D2 that is in most mutivitamins and also hard to get from food.
Take a look at the vitamin A component from the MegaFood whole food vitamin nutrient label. You don’t see beta carotene only that may be synthetic, and that was seen in studies to be harmful when taken in large supplemental amount. The vitamin A comes from a whole complex of mixed caotenoids that comes from carrots as a whole food source.
This is an example of what you should expect to get if you are taking a multivitamin that is made 100% from whole foods – be sure to check the label of any vitamin supplement and be sure that it says that it is made from whole foods, and also that it is not a combination of some whole foods and some synthetic vitamins.
And this is why I am fine with taking the MegaFood vitamin supplement, and do feel that it is beneficial for my nutritional health.