I have been brought up in the belief that the daily intake of vitamin and mineral supplements is a form of life insurance. Everyone around me, and doctors alike, extol the good things gained by taking in vitamins on a daily basis. This habit was ingrained in all of us by our elders so much so that if you happen to skip a day without taking it, you’ll see the displeasure in their faces.
Time flew by and a lot of things changed. That included my daily vitamin intake ritual.
Being an avid reader, I have seen hundreds upon hundreds of ads, blogs, articles, and even researches and academical studies on the subject. Gradually, it dawned on me that all supplements have something in common. They all have a little disclaimer in their packaging that goes like the following:
These statements [extolling the vitamin’s positive effect on your body] have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.
Does that sound familiar? Here’s another variation:
No approved therapeutic claims
There might be other variations to these disclaimers but those two are the most common. Now what does that tell you? Needless to say, it piqued my interest enough to start a little informal research into it. The bugging logical question going on in my head was something like, “If these things have been around for so long already, why hasn’t the FDA approved its use? Wouldn’t they have at least made an effort to back up something that truly is beneficial to one’s health?”
Just to verify that what I found out was happening even in my own home, I took out my Vitamin C supplements and looked for something similar to the above disclaimer. I was quite relieved to find nothing of the sort, that is, until I saw this:
For the treatment and prevention of Vitamin C deficiency.
Wait a minute! I wasn’t aware I had any Vitamin C deficiency! Why put limitations to something I grew up with to be so potent in preventing colds and flu? These disclaimers sound quite important yet why the very hard to read prints? And the questions kept on coming.
Needless to say, these “similarities” made me rethink about all this hype vitamin and mineral supplements. As I continued my research (informal, mind you), I became more and more convinced that I actually “did not need” to do my daily ritual at all. I even came upon information that stated something like [quote]All these supplement manufacturers get away with pulling one over their clients because the public service departments supposedly controlling these things, FDA and so on, get a substantial kickback from them. The consensus being that they should print disclaimers on their labels somewhere, and that’s that.[/quote] Now I understand that the above quote is a bit far-fetched but the more I think about it and look into this angle, the more convinced I became that these agencies, supposedly there to protect us, are leaving the citizens to decide for themselves what’s good or not good regarding their health.
We all know that too much of something can be a bad thing. This same principle also applies to food supplements just like it does to prescription drugs. Take for instance the “disclaimer” of the Vitamin C supplements I kept taking. Since I have been taking it for more than three decades already, shouldn’t that make me a drug dependent? An addict, if you will? Maybe not, but did it really do everything it was supposed to do? Well, I can clearly recall more than a couple of incidences where I had the flu or cold. When were the Vitamin C anti-cold/flu properties supposed to kick in?
Why Do Millions of People Still Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements?
The food supplement industry banks on people’s anxiety. All advertisements pertaining to vitamins and other food supplements tells us one thing only; that we lack essential nutrients. By making us feel left out, our natural course of action is to fill up, cover and fortify our most precious commodity; our body. It’s the most simple yet highly effective strategy there is. By inducing fear or anything related to it, all these companies have a sure market.
Another angle is that if all these vitamins are good for you, a bit more would actually be much better, right? There are some pretty crazy angles as well; a little bit more than suggested will become reserves against any sickness that may come tomorrow. Can you believe that? As far as I’m concerned, everything that goes into the front eventually comes out the back. Of course some things do get left behind but, nevertheless, come out in one way or another at some point in time. What reserve’s are they talking about? The only reserves my body can hold is the fat around my waist and belly (which is really hard to get rid off).
The thing is, these supplements should only be taken as needed and not on a daily basis. My common sense dictates that if your body gets used to the daily supplements, it actually becomes lazy and depends on them instead. And that’s not all.
Some people tend to combat simple afflictions like cold or flu with a double dose of vitamins. This is brought on by the logic that if the dosage is increased, there’s more anti-bodies to fight the sickness. What guarantee do you have that it will do what you believe it will do?
Vitamins taken in excess of the recommended dosage need a doctor’s recommendation. Now, I’ve heard arguments that state “whatever your body doesn’t need, it expels.” That is the beauty of our body. However, continuous excess will lead to negative side effects. Here are a few snippets verifying that finding.
Too much vitamin C or zinc could cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Too much selenium could lead to hair loss, gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, and mild nerve damage
While most people aren’t getting megadoses, if you eat a fortified cereal at breakfast, grab an energy bar between meals, have enriched pasta for dinner, and take a daily supplement, you could easily be over the recommended daily intake of a host of nutrients.
Still think too much vitamin intake is safe? Check this out.
Hypervitaminosis – an abnormal condition resulting from excessive intake of toxic amounts (self-prescribed, usually from supplements) of one or more vitamins, especially over a long period. Serious effects may result from overdoses of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, or K, but adverse reactions are less likely with the water-soluble B and C vitamins, except when taken in megadoses.
If you don’t have a serious vitamin deficiency, taking supplemental vitamins doesn’t provide any benefit, in almost all cases that have been studied. What’s even more surprising is this: routinely taking mega-doses of vitamins might actually harm you.
I do not know how to stress my point further than the above quote. I provided all my references below if you want to know more.
I concede that Vitamin and mineral supplements do have their purposes, especially in the medical field. They are medically prescribed solutions to specific deficiencies and should be treated as such. Self-administering them actually poses more danger than good. The risks are just not worth it.
The only true blue solution to a healthier you is to eat food, period. Not food supplements but real (and organic) food. Don’t take it from me though since I’m hardly an expert. Take it from an expert such as the one below:
Nutritionists recommend food first because foods provide a variety of vitamins and minerals and also dietary factors that are not found in a vitamin or mineral supplement. – Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., a Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Health and Human Development.
For example, she points out that foods provide many bioactive compounds and dietary fiber that typically aren’t found in supplements. And some supplements don’t allow for full absorption of vitamins.
If taken on an empty stomach without any food, some of the fat-soluble vitamins will not be absorbed as well as they would if the supplement was consumed with a food that provides fat. – Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton
Today, I am free from my daily vitamin ritual. The funny thing is that I actually feel a big change in me. I have actually gotten a lot more active outdoors. My stamina, endurance and even muscle tone has improved. I’m not saying that the daily supplements I took before kept me in a poor bodily state but ever since I opted for natural food and a well rounded diet, I felt that I was actually depriving myself of all the things that life had to offer me back in those days. Yet, I still wonder…