Are Vitamins Actually Worth Taking?

by Lauren Burkett

If you are like most Americans, you aren’t exactly sure if that multi-vitamin you are taking each day is actually doing you any good. In fact, it is most likely not and may be doing your body more harm than good. Some studies have shown that taking vitamins A, C, and E in supplement form have shown increased cases of certain cancers in patients (1). Since the body is already equipped with multiple mechanisms to obtain these nutrients, taking in these vitamins as supplements overwhelms the body with antioxidants, resulting in inflammation.

 

One of the vitamins thought to be worth taking is vitamin D. Since limited foods contain this ever-important vitamin, getting it in the diet via supplement form could be a wise decision.

 

Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified products including cheese, milk, and commonly orange juice. Calcium is also a frequently taken supplement, considering calcium and vitamin D work together in protecting the body’s skeletal system to keep the  bones strong.

It is best to evaluate what vitamins you may be lacking in your diet before turning to supplements as they can pose harmful side effects – no different than prescription medications. One study found that over 90% of women may not be getting enough calcium – and that over 50% of women treated for conditions such as osteoporosis have inadequate vitamin D intake (2). Moreover, the U.S. Surgeon General supports the necessity of calcium and vitamin D and came up with a visual aid referred to as the ‘pyramid approach’ in both treating and preventing bone-loss conditions.

 

 

Picture a pyramid…

 

 

  • The base being adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D and including physical activity – this symbolizes the most essential aspect in preventing and also treating bone-loss conditions.
  • The next level up represents identifying and treating secondary causes of bone loss – patients seeking help from healthcare providers, and following their medical advice for these conditions.
  • The top most narrow tier of the pyramid entails the pursuance of pharmacotherapy – patients are now in need of medication to treat symptoms.

Starting early from the bottom of the pyramid through diet and exercise is proven to be the most effective form of preventing these diseases from developing in the first place. This applies not only to consequences of inadequate consumption of calcium or vitamin D in the diet, but also with every other vitamin or mineral that the body requires for energy, nourishment, and vitality.


Recommendation:
Get the majority of your vitamins and minerals from foods! The combination of nutrients offered from fresh foods – particularly plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, and legumes – offer the body the best known benefits.

Once you evaluate your diet and lifestyle factors (i.e., time spent outside in sun for vitamin D levels, or amount of nutrient-dense foods eaten), you can better determine whether or not those supplements you are buying are giving you the most bang for your buck.

NOTE: Vitamins can act as safety nets if there are days when you may not be getting enough of a particular nutrient. Relying on them isn’t the best idea however. Diet is key along with a lifestyle of moderate physical activity for preventing both acute and chronic conditions.

References

  1. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. Antioxidants: In Depth. NCCIH Clearinghouse, Nov. 2013: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm
  2. Sunyecz JA. The use of calcium and vitamin D in the management of osteoporosis. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 2008;4(4):827-836. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2621390/
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