By Andrew Hammond
Vitamins: Savior or Grim Reaper?
Many of us believe that we can never take too many vitamins. They are, after-all, essential micro-nutrients to the body. New scientific evidence seems to contradict this, however, as Jaakkoo Mursa’s recent findings show. Mursa, along with his colleagues from the University of Minnesota, declare that taking multivitamins and supplements can in the long run kill you faster than if you hadn’t taken them.
To reach this conclusion, Mursa and colleagues followed the lives of 38,000 over the span of 19 years, painstakingly recording their habits, their diets, and their health. What he found contradicted most modern day thought: vitamins can kill you. In fact, women who took the multivitamins had a 6% chance of dying before the women who had not taken them. The strange thing is that the women who were taking the vitamins and supplements regularly also tended to be “less likely to be overweight and have diabetes or high blood pressure and were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and avoid high-fat foods.”
Aye, there’s the rub.
The statistics included in the report are also unsettling. If one were to take folic acid tablets, they would have a 15% of dying early. For copper supplements, 45%. This anomaly, however, is explained quite adequately. As I stated earlier, women who took supplements usually had good health and ate healthily. This good diet, when done in conjunction with supplements and multivitamins, caused the early death. When one eats a healthy diet, they obtain most of their necessary nutrients. Taking supplements actually raises the level of the vitamins and minerals in the body to toxic levels, effectively harming rather than helping.
The one bright spot in this case is the use of the supplement calcium. By taking calcium supplements, women were able to ward off osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Mursa goes on to say that emphasis should be placed on a good diet, as it is “It’s safer and more practical.”
Vitamins can do what?!
I, for one, was slightly shocked by this development. I had always thought that you could never take too many vitamins, even though I was never a fan of taking them myself. It wasn’t until I researched further that I learned that you could actually harm yourself from consuming too much vitamin A, C, and E. It would be wise to actually study the word supplement for a minute. The word supplement can mean one of several different things. In this case, however, it means to take the space of or to fill the space of, as in, to fulfill the requirement. Supplements were only meant to be taken as measures to ensure homeostasis in the body, not to be used as part of a daily, long-term health regimen. I also concur with Mr. Mursa in that we should instead focus on a good diet instead of taking vitamins and supplements.
Debunking Vitamin E
As if to add insult to injury, studies have recently shown that too many vitamins are bad for men too. Vitamin E may increase the instances of prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic. This study directly contradicts earlier research that had shown that vitamin E was a viable deterrent against prostate cancer. The effects of vitamin E have been shown to remain with the patient even after testing has stopped as well. As researcher Dr. Eric Klein has stated, “People have to get out of the idea that taking vitamins is innocuous, and that their effects stop when they stop taking them.”
It was also once widely accepted that vitamin E could ward of vision loss, breast cancer, and heart disease. These claims have also been debunked, further taking away steam from the vitamin movement.
There is still a silver lining for vitamin E, however. Research has shown that patients exhibiting early signs of dementia can slow the rate of decay in the mind by taking vitamin E. The research, sadly, is not conclusive enough for doctors to recommend it. Klein is not sure as to what causes the increase of instances of prostate cancer or the hindrance of dementia, but he’s sure that his massive collection of tissues from effected patients can reveal those mysteries of science soon enough.
I do believe that these recent findings provide the balance that the world craves. These articles show that too much of a good thing is bad, but did not implicitly say that taking vitamins and supplements are dangerous. The exception is, of course, if one is on a good, healthy, balanced diet where the nutrients are readily accessible and absorbed. This research also provides warnings against possible diseases, information that could potentially save someone’s life. The research even shows that there are possible uses for vitamin E against dementia and Alzheimer’s. The only question now is whether or not further research will show that vitamins are dangerous and whether or not more diseases can be treated with vitamin therapy.
Alice Park, “Vitamins and Supplements Linked to Higher Risk of Death.” HealthWorld.Time.com, Time, Oct. 11, 2011. Accessed Nov 5, 2011. Web.
Alice Park, “Vitamin E May Increase Risk of Prostate Cancer.” HealthWorld.Time.com, Time, Oct. 12, 2011. Accessed Nov 5, 2011. Web