We all know the general health advice: eat in moderation, munch on veggies, exercise, and take your vitamin supplements. But you might want to pause on the vitamins for now. Scientific evidence from numerous studies until now suggests that there's no solid evidence that vitamins and supplements are massively beneficial. What's more, overdosing on supplements has been linked with cancer, prompting the question: "are vitamin supplements safe?"
So, are vitamin supplements safe?
Simply put: mostly, no.
Recent studies have shown that some vitamins do more harm than good. Many are connected to a rise in health risks, such as contracting specific cancers or a higher risk of kidney stones.
What's worse is that even with more evidence suggesting supplements aren't good for you, peoples' vitamin supplement ingesting habits haven't changed at all, says a recent study from November 14, 2018.
Still, there are a few supplements which we need. Here's a list to guide on you on which supplements you should skip and which are needed:
Here are the ones you should probably skip...
Multivitamins have been touted as essential to general health. Vitamin C improves your immune response, Vitamin A safeguards your eyesight, while Vitamin B helps you remain energized.
However, you can easily get these nutrients from your meals. What's more, research has shown that having too much multivitamins can be dangerous.
Research from 2011 looking at nearly 39,000 older women for more than 25 years discovered that women taking multivitamins in the long run generally had a higher risk of death compared to the women who didn't.
Why not try this instead? Strive to eat a balanced diet everyday, as this will give you the balance of nutrients you need.
2. Antioxidants, like Vitamin A, C, E, and beta-carotene
Antioxidants are known to protect our cells from damage. However, having too many antioxidants isn't good, and is related to higher risk of specific cancers, suggests studies. For example, one study found that men who smoked and routinely had Vitamin A, had a higher chance of being ill with lung cancer compared to male smokers who didn't.
One review published in 2007 examining a variety of antioxidant supplements, quotes that "treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality."
Why not try this instead? Several fruits (particularly berries) and vegetables are naturally rich sources of antioxidants. Many even claim that these foods can protect against cancer. So don't forget to munch on those berries instead of over-dosing on antioxidant supplements.
Are vitamin supplements safe? Not for antioxidant supplements - munch on those berries as a snack or meal dessert, instead! | Image Source: Stock Photo
3. Vitamin C
The media has been abuzz with the benefits of Vitamin C. At first, it only began as a suggestion from a chemist in the 1970s. Now, there's a booming industry producing supplements, drinks and more.
However, Vitamin C's superpowers are mostly nothing more than exaggerated publicity.
Research has consistently proven that Vitamin C isn't very (or not at all) effective in preventing or treating the common cold. Also, overdosing on Vitamin C tablets can heighten the risk of painful kidney stones.
Why not try this instead? Include food rich in vitamin C in your food instead, like strawberries, kiwi, and citrus fruits.
4. Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 was once prescribed to those with a range of conditions - from Alzheimer's to even heart disease. However, scientists are now urging such people to stop.
In a study involving over 25,000 people ill with heart disease, patients were treated with long-lasting doses of the vitamin to increase their 'good', or HDL, cholesterol. However, the treatment failed to lessen the amount of heart attacks, strokes, or deaths.
In addition, patients who were treated with B3 supplements had a higher chance of getting infections, liver issues and internal bleeding compared to those taking a placebo.
Why not try this instead? Eat food rich in vitamin B3, such as salmon, tuna, or beets.
Probiotic supplements containing bacteria aren't only costly, but they can also be obtained naturally from yogurt and fermented food. These sources are milder and more beneficial. Yet probiotic supplements have evolved to grow into a booming industry with a market worth billions of dollars.
The supplements are touted to help the trillions of bacteria thriving in our intestines - which scientists know are critical in regulating human health.
However, testing whether the pills really work or not hasn't been black and white.
Probiotic supplements have been shown to have all sorts of effects: at times the tablets help, at times they don't.
Why not try this instead? Eat yogurt instead instead of taking probiotic supplements. It's cheaper and has similar content.
Are vitamin supplements safe? Not for probiotic supplements - we need more information. In the meantime, take some yoghurt - they're affordable, delicious and offer similar benefits. | Image Source: Stock Photo
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E has been marketed for its power to safeguard against cancer. However, one study in 2011 recruiting 36,000 men discovered that men who had Vitamin E suffered a heightened risk of prostate cancer than men treated with a placebo. Another study in 2005 even connected high amounts of Vitamin E with a heightened risk of death in general.
Why not try this instead? Eat more dark green veggies which are packed with Vitamin E, like spinach (try a fresh spinach salad) and forget the pill.
But be sure to take:
1. Folic acid, especially for expecting women or if you are intending to become pregnant.
Folic acid is one of the many B vitamins our bodies need to make new cells.
According to the National Institutes of Health, pregnant women or women wanting to become pregnant should have 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Pregnancy requires extra folic acid than usual when women are carrying a growing fetus.
Furthermore, numerous studies have also connected folic acid supplementation prior to and while pregnant with many benefits. For instance, the supplement leads to a lesser likelihood of neural-tube defects, severe and deadly birth defects affecting the baby's brain, spine, or spinal cord.
2. Zinc, because science has shown that it's one of the few nutrients connected to shortening a cold.
Zinc helps to treat the common cold faster because it affects the growth of the viruses causing it.
And science has proof. In one review in 2011, scientists examined people who took zinc and those who had a placebo. When they got sick, they discovered that patients who took zinc experienced shorter colds and milder symptoms than those who didn't.
Egg yolks are a good source of Vitamin D. | Image Source: Stock Photo
3. Vitamin D, which helps to build bones. Not to mention, it's quite rare in food.
Vitamin D is quite rare in common food we eat. But it is a very important nutrient which maintains and builds bone strength by helping us absorb calcium.
Sunlight exposure does make our bodies produce Vitamin D. But for people living in seasonal countries, sunlight is scarce in winter.
Additionally, many recent study reviews discovered that supplementing Vitamin D ever day generally leads to longer lives compared to having none at all.
Parents, we hope that this article answers your questions on "Are vitamins safe?" If you liked this article, please share your thoughts below or share this article on social media!
Originally posted with permission from The Asian Parent Singapore
Also Read: Paano patabain ang payat kong anak?