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Why vitamin pills don't work, and may be bad for you

Not a miracle cure

The idea that antioxidant supplementation is a miracle cure is entirely redundant. 

For instance, excess Vitamin C can become, in itself, a free radical by accepting an electron and in turn, damage cell membranes, proteins, and DNA.

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Why vitamin pills don't work, and may be bad for you

Why vitamin pills don't work, and may be bad for you

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20161208-why-vitamin-supplements-could-kill-you

bbc.com

6

Key Ideas

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.

But over the years, vitamin C, and many other dietary supplements, have found little backing from scientific study. In fact, they were proven to be more harming rather than helping our bodies.

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.

Not a miracle cure

The idea that antioxidant supplementation is a miracle cure is entirely redundant. 

For instance, excess Vitamin C can become, in itself, a free radical by accepting an electron and in turn, damage cell membranes, proteins, and DNA.

The work of free-radicals

Free radicals are essential for our health. They are used as molecular messengers that send signals from one region of the cell to another. Without free radicals, cells would continue to grow and divide uncontrollably, also known as cancer.

Free radicals also increase when our bodies are infected with an unwanted bacterium or virus. Free radicals act as a warning method to our immune system.

Vitamin supplementation

Administration of antioxidants is only justified when it is evident that there is a real deficiency of a specific antioxidant.

It is far better to get antioxidants from food because it contains a mixture of antioxidants that work together. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides a healthy balance of pro-oxidants and other compounds whose roles aren't fully understood.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & 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 revi...

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.

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False Remedies
False Remedies

Much like a hundred years ago when Spanish Flu killed millions, questionable medicinal concoctions and folk remedies have surfaced across the world, claiming to boost the immune system.

S...

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:

  • The mucus is helping flush out the pathogen.
  • The fever(heat) makes the body impalpable for it to survive and replicate.
  • The body pain is actually the inflammatory chemicals in your veins, guiding the immune cells like an air traffic controller.
  • The brain is provided with a signal to slow down and let the body recover.

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Vitamin C

It’s a popular practice to take Vitamin C tablets or drink orange juice to boost immunity and ward off the common cold. However, Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, does not prevent or cure the common col...

Shorter Cold

Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling had some studies published which were claiming that large doses of Vitamin C can cure illnesses like cancer and heart disease, along with the flu, but so far the claims have been largely inaccurate, though a few studies reported a shorter duration of the illness in some people.

Vitamin C is Good For You

Vitamin C activates key enzymes in our bodies and acts as an antioxidant. It protects the organs (like lungs) from pathogens. This Vitamin is crucial for the body to launch an effective immune response. All the more reason to consume citrus fruits, and vegetables like the Indian Gooseberry.

Supplements don’t work as effectively and extremely large doses have side effects like nausea, diarrhea and stomach ache.

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Results On Multivitamins
  • In studies testing the four common supplements of multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C, there was no reduction in the incidence of heart disease, stroke or premature death.
  • ...
Multivitamins Research Review
  • There’s some evidence for taking folic acid for the prevention of heart disease and stroke, and also for taking B-complex vitamins that include folic acid for stroke.
  • As there was no reduction in early death from taking supplements, it does not work against poor dietary habits.
  • Taking supplements is very different from eating whole foods. The latter rarely causes complications and the former may lead to the consumer missing out on healthy phytonutrients found in the former.
Vitamin D and sunshine

Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and many other biological processes. Lower levels of Vitamin D increase the rates of almost every disease like cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, cognitiv...

Vitamin D supplementation

Getting vitamin D through supplementation shows zero benefits. A study over a period of 5 years found supplementing with Vitamin D had no impact on cancer, heart disease, or stroke.

A number of researchers now argue that people with high vitamin D levels are healthy not because of the vitamin, but because they get plenty of exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is just a marker of that fact.

Sunlight is good for you

A dermatologist discovered our skin uses sunlight to make nitric oxide, a molecule in the body that dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

He exposed volunteers to the equivalent of 30 minutes of summer sunlight without sunscreen. The result? The nitric oxide levels in the volunteers went up, and their blood pressure lowered. Because of the connection of high blood pressure to heart disease and strokes, this discovery can prevent millions of deaths globally.

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The Reality Behind Supplements

Studies demonstrate that multivitamins don't improve outcomes on a number of health measures, from staving off cognitive decline to preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer. The health b...

Beware Of Supplements’ Claims

In the US, supplements are regulated like food — and not drugs — under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, pill makers can basically put whatever claims they want on their bottles.

One analysis of supplement websites found 81 percent made at least one health claim — and more than half of those promised to treat, prevent, diagnose, or cure specific diseases. But a quick thought exercise will tell you that if these pills were truly panaceas, the FDA would have to treat them like drugs, not foods.

Resist The Urge For a Quick Fix

Back when undernutrition and vitamin deficiencies were widespread, supplements made some sense. But now one of the more urgent health problems is obesity and overnutrition while a growing body of studies shows that supplements’ effects are minimal or negative. 

Remember that you can’t know for sure what's really in your supplement bottle. And that the pills probably won't make you any healthier (unless you have a medically diagnosed deficiency). And they might even be hurting you.

The necessary amount of sleep
The necessary amount of sleep

Most adults function best after 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

When we get less than 7 hours, we’re impaired (to degrees that vary from person to person).  When sleep persistently fa...

Polyphasic sleeping

It's based on the idea that by partitioning your sleep into segments, you can get away with less of it.

Though it is possible to train oneself to sleep in spurts instead of a single nightly block, it does not seem possible to train oneself to need less sleep per 24-hour cycle.

Replacing sleep with caffeine

Caffeine works primarily by blocking the action of a chemical called adenosine, which slows down our neural activity, allowing us to relax, rest, and sleep.

By interfering with it, caffeine cuts the brake lines of the brain’s alertness system. Eventually, if we don’t allow our body to relax, the buzz turns to anxiety.

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Over-The-Counter Pills
Over-The-Counter Pills

About 25 percent of adults above 50 years of age try to improve their brain health and memory by taking supplements.

These pills claim to enhance memory, attention and foc...

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.
Best foods don’t have labels
Best foods don’t have labels

Because they are just one ingredient: avocado, lentils, blueberries, broccoli, almonds, etc.

There is no "best diet"

The “best” diet is a theme: an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and plain water for thirst. 

That can be with or without seafood; with or without dairy; with or without eggs; with or without some meat; high or low in total fat.

The "Age" of vegetables
The best vegetables are likely to be fresh and locally sourced, but flash frozen is nearly as good (as freezing delays aging). Those “fresh” vegetables that spend a long time in storage or transit are probably the least nutritious.

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Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are found in fiber and starch and are beneficial for brain health as they release glucose slowly into our system, helping stabilize our mood. Simple carbohydr...

Antioxidants

Our cells generate energy through oxidation, but oxidation also reduces the dopamine and serotonin in the brain and creates oxidative stress.

Antioxidants found in brightly colored foods like fruits and vegetables act as a defense against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and body. Antioxidants also repair oxidative damage and scavenge free radicals that cause cell damage in the brain. 

Omega 3

Omega 3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are involved in the process of converting food into energy. They are important for the health of the brain and the communication of its feel-good chemicals dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

Omega 3 are essential nutrients that are not readily produced by the body, so we must include foods high on it in our diet. 

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