July 27, 2016

Multivitamins and Supplements: Good or Bad?

SupplementsDo you take daily multivitamins or supplements? If so, you’re not alone. More than half of adult Americans take multivitamins or health supplements and they’re paying billions of dollars a year for their artificial nutrition.

As you know, multivitamins are meant to ensure you’re receiving adequate nutrients no matter your diet. They supposedly help prevent health conditions associated with nutrient deficiencies. Nevertheless, you’re better off getting your vitamins and minerals the natural way.

About Supplements

Lean meats, whole grains and legumes are natural sources of vitamin B1 (thiamin), but many vitamin B1 supplements are made from coal tar. Red meat, poultry and seafood provide ample supplies of iron, but iron supplements are often made from rusty nails. Scientists, physicians and researchers that support multivitamins and supplements think that a nutrient is a nutrient, no matter its source.

As you’d expect, multivitamins have undergone serious testing on their effects on human health. The results aren’t always positive, though. In many clinical trials, multivitamins presented new health issues or simply didn’t work.

SupplementsExamples of the unsettling results in supplement and multivitamin testing include:

  • Vitamin E supplements — and high amounts of vitamin E in multivitamins — increased the overall risk of mortality in adults.
  • Vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 and B12 in multivitamins and supplements did not lower the risk of the occurrence of disease in adults.
  • Beta-carotene in multivitamins and supplements did not affect the health of adults and showed signs of harm to smokers.
  • Antioxidants such as vitamin A in multivitamins and supplements increased the risk of mortality. Antioxidants including vitamin C and selenium in multivitamins and supplements may increase the risk of mortality as well, but further research is necessary.

It’s not all bad, though. Here are some examples of positive results in supplement and multivitamin testing:

  • Selenium in multivitamins and supplements might reduce the risk of certain cancers. However, further testing is necessary.
  • Testing suggested that vitamin E in multivitamins and supplements can help decrease cardiovascular disease risk.
  • Vitamin D and calcium combined in multivitamins and supplements increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures in post-menopausal women.

Overall, the risks seem to outweigh the benefits.

About Natural Multivitamins

Physicians and researchers often overlook the importance of whole foods in favor of artificial nutrition sources, but this is a mistake. The American Society of Nutrition has acknowledged that synergizing your whole food intake can negate the need for multivitamins and supplements.

Eating a wholesome diet supplies your body will all of the nutrients it requires to function properly. In contrast, eating a diet consisting of purified or artificial nutrients does not provide your body with sufficient energy and nourishment to thrive.

Here are a couple examples of the superiority of natural nutrition:

  • Lycopene, which helps reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and male infertility, is found in tomatoes. When you eat fresh tomatoes, the effectiveness of lycopene is greater than taking an equal amount from a supplement.
  • The antioxidants in fresh brassica vegetables — think cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts — are more effective at fighting free radicals than antioxidants from multivitamins and supplements.

Balanced Diet

So, how do you get all of your nutrients from food? A balanced diet will do the trick. Start by eliminating empty calories — foods that don’t provide you with significant nutrients — in other words, cut the junk food. Potato chips, candy, cakes and frozen dinners are prime examples of empty calories.

Here’s what you need:

Meat or Legumes – This isn’t optional, your body needs a source of protein. Thankfully, healthful sources of protein provide ample vitamins and minerals. Lean beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish and seafood are all rich in protein. (Keep in mind that a serving of meat is 3 ounces; eating more than that in a day can increase your risk of heart disease.) Legumes are an excellent source of meat-free protein. When you eat meat or legumes, you’re getting B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc. Eat a source of lean protein at least twice daily.

Vegetables – You know you should be eating more vegetables. They’re low-calorie, low-fat and loaded with vitamins and minerals. Leafy green vegetables such as kale or butterhead lettuce provide vitamins K, E, B and C. They’re also a great source of iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Eat at least 1 cup of vegetables at every meal.

Fruit – Fruit is nature’s candy, but for whatever reason, most people don’t eat enough of it. Not only is fruit delicious, but it contains loads of vitamins and minerals. Potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K are all found in a single apple, for example. Eat at least 3 cups of fruit daily.

Whole Grains – Oatmeal, bulgur, quinoa and couscous are all nutrient-packed whole grains that you should be eating. They contain B vitamins, selenium, potassium, iron, magnesium and several other vitamins and minerals. Whole grains also contain dietary fiber, which improves digestion and reduces your risk of colon cancer. Eat at least 2 cups of whole grains daily.

When Supplements are Beneficial

Vitamin D – During winter months, or if you live in northern latitudes, you don’t get enough sun, which means not enough vitamin D. You don’t need artificial supplements, you can make up for it with cod liver oil, a natural source of vitamin D.

Magnesium – Many Americans are deficient in magnesium, a crucial nutrient that protects you against an array of chronic diseases. Sea kelp supplements are rich in magnesium and they allow you to dodge the risks of artificially created magnesium.

The Bottom Line

In most cases, getting your vitamins and minerals solely from food is best for your health. However, for some medical conditions or dietary concerns, supplements are necessary. If you must take supplements, make sure you buy them from a company you trust, preferably one that guarantees their product as natural.

Read more at The Journal of The American Medical Association and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Audrey Rosenchild

Audrey Rosenchild, is a certified physical trainer and nutritional specialist. She is passionate about helping others lead healthy lifestyles, eat right and stay active. In the near future, she plans to obtain certification as a yoga instructor. Audrey has been a professional writer for over two years and is the author of more than 2,200 pieces for various online publications. She has contributed to several blogs on a wide array of topics and is currently working on a wellbeing book she plans to publish in early 2013. 

  • Manaka Niita

    For me supplements are not bad for as a long as you don’t over do them. Or should I say overdose. Supplements such as http://products.mercola.com/vitamin-b12-spray/ and other related supplemental products can be thoroughly check and review the results. Right?

  • Marietta Nixon

    Thanks for this informational article. I have been telling people things that have worked for me when I have a cold. But I always follow up with “but your system might be different.” I can’t tell you how many people have told me things don’t work for them. I just have to tell them that when it comes to health supplements, it depends on the person. It’s not a one size fits all ordeal. Thanks for your post!

  • Holly-Molly

    Why isn’t this a more focused on topic? With the aisles of pills in grocery stores, more people should know about this stuff… Seriously.