Thursday, 17 April 2008

Vitamin supplements can kill you!

I’m not a fan of supplements. I find it odd that while we have a clear over-abundance of food, we’re a nation that over-supplements! We can get all the nutrients we need from food, there’s no need to take any kind of supplement- not even a multivitamin.

Of course, there are some cases where it’s recommended- someone who has a weak appetite or an inability to absorb or digest certain foods, for example. However, it’s my opinion that healthy individuals should not be taking pills to get their nutrients. Who knows what the long term effects will be?!

Antioxidant supplements like beta-carotene, vitamins E and C have long been peddled as being able to get rid of dangerous ‘free radicals’ in our bodies that have been linked to everything from cancer to heart disease.
However, a recent review of 67 studies, appearing in the Cochrane Library, involving a total of 233000 healthy adults and adults with medical conditions under control has found that people that took antioxidant supplements did not live longer and, in fact, some supplements increased mortality!

The researchers linked vitamin A supplements to a 16% increased risk of dying, beta-carotene to a 7% increased risk and vitamin E to a 4% increased risk. Cause of death was not tracked.

The antioxidants also appeared to offer no benefit to people with gastrointestinal, heart, neurological, eye, skin, rheumatoid, kidney and endocrine diseases, according to the authors.

Critics, including a supplement-industry trade group, argue that the review only included studies that included deaths. The researchers defend themselves saying that most of the trials that had no deaths were not “proper preventative trials” .

As Dr. Walter Willett (Harvard School of Public Health) points out:

“Pills that contain 1 or 2 or 10 substances made by plants just won’t do. Why not? Plants make a seemingly endless cornucopia of compounds that have biological activity in the human body…The vast majority of these phytochemicals have yet to be discovered”.

The benefits we get from fruits, vegetables and other foods not only come from the different substances they contain but possibly from the interactions between them.

Retrieved April 17, 2008, from­ /releases/2008/04/080415194233.htm
Willett, WC. Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy- The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. 2005.


Anonymous said...

what do you know about creatine? I know a few men who say it increases their muscle mass fast and helps them recover better when weight training.

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Hey Chrys,
Thanks for your question- it was so great, I decided to blog about it (Sept 2, 08)!