The Truth about Vitamin Supplements
Shirley Lai, HK BioTek Intern
Multivitamins and vitamin supplements can be found in every pharmacy, grocery store, and health store. Many health-conscious people look for vitamin supplements in order to make sure the intake is enough. But, do they really work? The more vitamins you get, the healthier you are, right? Or are health companies just trying to make money by convincing you that you need more vitamins?
Here is why you should be careful about vitamins:
Vitamin Poisoning: In some studies, experts concluded that taking too much vitamins can actually make you more susceptible to diseases. While vitamins give you antioxidants to fight off free radicals and protect you from cancer, too much antioxidants will block too much free radicals. Scientists say that your body may need a small amount of free radicals to prevent diseases1. In the case of smokers, researchers found that vitamin A supplements increased their chances of getting lung cancer1.
Fresh foods over supplements: Health experts argue that vitamins consumed from fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains are better for your body than manufactured and processed vitamins. A study showed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables for nutrient intake had better health than those who just relied vitamin supplements2. You are better off adapting your diet to incorporate more natural vitamins rather than spending money on supplements.
If you avoid these dangers, vitamins can help you fight nutrition deficiency:
Majority of people are nutrient deficient, meaning they are not eating a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients their body needs. However, people with natural vitamin deficiencies, pregnant mothers, vegans/vegetarians, etc., may require specific vitamin supplements in order to make up for the vitamins that they cannot acquire from their normal diet or to support them for specific physical functions3.
Some common nutrient deficiencies: Calcium, Vitamin D, Potassium, Iron, Vitamin B12, Folate, Magnesium4.
Some common nutrient deficiency symptoms: fatigue, weak immune system, muscle weakness, bone loss, other diseases, etc4. The best way to confirm a nutrient deficiency is through a blood test.
While there is still some mystery about the effects of vitamin supplements, the best option is to manage your diet to include as many natural sources of nutrients as possible, and to consult a specialist if you suspect you have symptoms of vitamin deficiency.