Today we were tweeted an article called ‘the problem with taking too many vitamins‘, and were asked for our thoughts. It is worth reading the article, but the long and short of it is that supplements should not be taken carelessly, and can in some cases cause more harm than good. There are some circumstances where supplements may be beneficial (e.g folic acid for pregnant women), but you should always seek advice when taking them, and going for a multi-vitamin ‘to cover all bases’ could be more damaging than beneficial. The author also says that you should be sceptical of the benefits that are touted by those who sell it, a category I fall in.
As always though, I will try and be unbiased in my thoughts.
I actually agree with a lot of what the author says. Vitamins can be dangerous, and if we look at vitamin A (as the author does) we know that it is toxic in large dosages – this is why you cannot obtain vitamin A as a isolated or highly concentrated supplement. Some other supplements have been shown to increase the risk of certain diseases, and different nutrients will compete for the same absorption pathway in the digestive system, which in extreme circumstances can actually cause a deficiency. This is not the opinion of anti-supplement people, it is accepted as fact.
Supplements can be have a great impact on your health, and I would recommend everyone does research on what they are taking/ considering taking. The attitude of taking a cheap multi-vitamin to ‘cover all bases’ is not good. OK, you may get a little extra vitamin C in your diet, but do you really need additional iron? If you don’t know the answer to this, then don’t take it! It is this scenario which The Health Cloud was designed for – education. I appreciate that as sellers of supplements you may think us as bias, but if nothing else, The Health Cloud may be a starting point for your further research. In fact, I would be a bit disappointed if you solely took my word for everything I say. Take supplements with caution, this I agree with.
I would like to point out, that not all supplements are created equally, and this is something the author did not cover at all. I would like to direct you to a blog post I did nearly a year ago, which simply highlights the variation in the quality of supplements (in particular cod liver oil). The supplement industry is very poorly regulated, resulting in many toxic products being sold at very attractive prices. I am pretty sure I could encapsulate water in a gel cap and sell it as cod liver oil without getting questioned for a very long period of time – no regulatory body is checking what people sell! Shocking really. There is a lot of corruption in the health world, and again, The Health Cloud is trying to combat it by educating people about health products, not just shoving them down your throat for a quick buck. A supplement made in a lab, using toxic chemicals and extreme temperatures to facilitate the reaction may well be toxic. One extracted from plants, using low temperature extraction methods is unlikely to be toxic (and I don’t believe it to be). It is worth noting though, that there has never been a comparative study between what I call crap supplements and good supplements. I am basing what I believe on my understanding of the processes used to obtain these nutrients, and my understanding of what certain toxic residues can do in the body. So not all supplements can be fairly grouped together – a detail missed in this article.
One thing I really do disagree with in this article is that the author recommends sticking to the RDA’s of nutrients. We know that people’s requirements can vary ten fold just from genetic variance (so that means for vitamin C someone may need 60mg (the RDA) and someone may need 600mg). Then there are environmental, dietary and activity factors to consider! RDA should really be considered to be the bare minimum of nutrients, not the maximums far as I am concerned. You can read more about the RDAs here)
So, to summarize, there are some good points in the article, and it is important to learn about any supplements you may be taking. However, the article seems to generalize all supplements together, something which really frustrates me. Not all supplements are the same, and will behave differently in your body.
Image courtesy of asimulator