Taking Down The Great Vitamin Hustle

Fruit composition

It seems the moment you take an interest in your health, you become bombarded with advice. Don’t eat carbs! Take all these vitamins!

But you know there are good carbs you should be eating, and you have the suspicion that vitamins aren’t a cure-all you’ve been missing out on.

And you would be right.

Let me walk through some of the most common vitamins people take, and I’ll explain just why the vitamin industry is one of the biggest peddlers of quasi-health products.

Multivitamin: Increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

Multivitamins are touted to help cover small nutrient deficiencies, support general health, and also decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Well, science isn’t backing up those claims. One interesting study examined the results of two decades worth of randomized tests and saw the risk of cancer went up for those individuals who took multivitamins daily. A smaller sampling also had increased cardiovascular disease risks.

So, instead of choking down a multivitamin that can increase your risk for serious diseases, try eating a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C: Doesn’t fix the common cold.

This one really got me, since I have had vitamin C pushed on me as a cold cure since I was a child. Our bodies only can absorb up to 400 mg of vitamin C in one dosage. Anything after that will leave the body in our urine. So, if you’re taking a “Cold-fighting” supplement such as Airborne (which has 1,000 mg of vitamin C per dose) your body isn’t even hanging onto half of the product you’re ingesting.

If you take more vitamin C than your body can digest, it may not be excreted through your urine. Some of the side effects of taking more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C a day are:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Interference with blood sugar tests

So, while small doses of vitamin C help support iron absorption, immune system functionality, healthy skin, and bone structure, you can receive these benefits from the foods you eat with no need to supplement. The recommended dosage of vitamin C per day is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Good sources of vitamin C in every day foods are:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Green vegetables

B Vitamins: The jury is still out.

Among eight types of B vitamins, I could write an entirely new article (hint hint — I’m working on one). So, I’d like to focus on one of the most popular: folic acid (B-9).

Folic acid is known best for its ability to promote healthy hair, skin, and nails. It is a common supplement for pregnant women. While there haven’t been many studies done on the validity of the first three claims, many studies have investigated folic acid’s link to prenatal development.

One such line of research led scientists to state it was clear that folic acid helps the fetus and mother in the following ways:

  • Avoiding pre-eclampsia
  • Supporting fetal growth
  • Preventing congenital heart disease
  • Lowering the risk of placenta-related complications

The science is actually with folic acid supplements when it comes to pregnancy. However, take this recommendation with a grain of salt: the study did suggest too much folic acid can be harmful. Some of the risks are:

  • Depression
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Masks a vitamin B-12 deficiency

So, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommended doses of folic acid when pregnant.

Bottom Line On Vitamins

If you are eating a healthy and varied diet, you shouldn’t need vitamin supplements. If you are concerned you are deficient in certain areas, talk with your doctor or a nutritionist to see what types of foods you can add to your diet to address any deficiencies.

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