Vitamin and mineral supplements are, of course, a staple of a lot of people’s lives. But a report from CBS News suggests that some are not only unnecessary, but could be dangerous.
Of course, we all need vitamins, but only in very small amounts, and we generally get what we need from what we eat. So if you’re generally healthy and eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you’re probably just fine, vitamins-wise, and you might be better off saving your money.
In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I discuss the fact that some vitamins can be dangerous in high doses. And, I agree with the conclusions of this CBS Report:
For instance, Vitamin E is touted as helping to fight cancer and heart disease. But recent data suggest that large doses can actually increase the risk of death, not prevent it. So I do not recommend that people take Vitamin E supplements for disease prevention.
Another popular supplement for fighting certain diseases, beta-carotene, used to be thought of as helping to prevent disease, but now it appears that additional beta-carotene can actually raise the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Loading up on Vitamin C to fight off colds is also coming to be panned in the medical community. Too much Vitamin C can cause diarrhea and kidney stones, and studies don’t suggest that it reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, or even the common cold.
Vitamin A, another popular choice, can actually lead to liver damage, blindness, and bone fractures in high doses.
Still, there is substantial evidence that taking folic acid before pregnancy and in early pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects such as spina bifida, in infants. So, universally, it is recommended that all women of childbearing age who might become pregnant take 800 micrograms of folic acid, or a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid, on a daily basis.
I also recommend that women and men take 400 – 800 IU of Vitamin D and at least 1,200 mg of calcium to help prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Also, as I’ve highlighted in recent My Takes, Vitamin D may have a wide variety of other benefits.
Also, vegetarians, especially vegans, should take a B-12 supplement, as this vitamin is found primarily in meats.