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The problem with taking too many vitamins

The Risk Of Malnutrition

Taking large quantities of minerals and vitamins may affect the absorption of others. And no optimal ratios have been determined so far.

So it's not just that taking lots of one thing is not good for you, it's that it may cause a dangerous reduction in something else even if you are also supplementing that. 

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The problem with taking too many vitamins

The problem with taking too many vitamins

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24563590

bbc.com

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Key Ideas

Individual Supplement Studies

Looking at individual studies won't determine if vitamin supplementation is good for you. They're scientifically dense and the conflicts of interest can be very hard to spot.

"Systematic review papers" are much better suited for that. This is where independent scientists gather up all the available data and re-analyze it to answer big questions.

Research Reviews’ Results

  • If you are healthy, and have a modern balanced diet, taking multi-vitamins and high-dose antioxidants may shorten your life.
  • There’s no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention of diseases.
  • Beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A.
  • Antioxidant supplements need to be considered as medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing.
  • The functions of minerals and vitamins are understood largely by their deficiency diseases so there’s no certainty what they all do or how they interact.
  • Antioxidants soak up toxic, chemically-reactive by-products of metabolism called free radicals. These free radicals, left unchecked, can cause damage to DNA and may be linked to cancer.
  • Your body's immune system fights infections by using free radicals to kill bugs. Several of the minerals and vitamins in excess can cause damage.

Supplement Usage Recommendations

  • Folic acid for the women thinking of having a baby and pregnant women up to week 12 of the pregnancy.
  • Vitamin D for all pregnant and breastfeeding women, those aged six months to five years or over 65 and for people who are not exposed to much sun.
  • Vitamins A, C and D supplementation are recommended for all children aged six months to four years, especially those not eating a varied diet.
  • If they are prescribed to you for a medical condition.

The Risk Of Malnutrition

Taking large quantities of minerals and vitamins may affect the absorption of others. And no optimal ratios have been determined so far.

So it's not just that taking lots of one thing is not good for you, it's that it may cause a dangerous reduction in something else even if you are also supplementing that. 

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Immunity-Boosting Is A Myth

Pills, superfoods, and other wellness habits do not boost our immunity as the 'symptoms' which we get when infected are in fact measures taken by our immune system to respond to the foreign pathogen.

Many allergies that people have are a misguided response from the immune system that treat harmless foreign bodies as harmful pathogens.

The Symptomatic Treatment

While over-the-counter medicines provide us with a so-called ‘relief’ by suppressing our fever, runny nose and other ‘symptoms’, these are in fact necessary for the body to get well. The symptoms we want to be stopped are not our enemy:

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Vitamins and free radicals

In the 90s, vitamins were touted as treatments for cardiovascular diseases, cataracts, and even cancer. Sales in multivitamins and other dietary supplements boomed.

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Added antioxidants

In the 1970s and into the 80s, research was done where mice were given a variety of supplementary antioxidants in their diet or via an injection straight into the bloodstream.

The result showed that an excess of antioxidants didn't stop the onset of disease or extended lifespan.

Antioxidant supplementation
  • In 1994, one trial followed the lives of 29,133 Finish people in their 50s who all smoked. Some were given beta-carotene supplements. The group that supplemented with Beta-carotene had a 16% increase in lung cancer.
  • Another study shows a breast cancer increase of 20% for postmenopausal women who supplemented with folic acid.
  • One study with 100 heavy smokers had a 28% increase in lung cancer after just four years of beta-carotene and vitamin A supplementation.

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Powdered Nutrients: The Facts
  • Most pills are a combination of vitamins and minerals, along with omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Scientific studies show the natural forms (like fish in case of omega-3 fatty acids) contain the real benefits, and popping supplements do not have the same effect.
  • Vitamin E supplements can help to a limited extent but high doses can increase the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Vitamin B supplements are only to be used if one’s normal diet is not enough for them, or in case of a deficiency.
  • Taking time to do some exercise and having a plant-based diet is a better long term health solution.