Vitamin Supplements?

By Winston J. Craig

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There is an adage that says that if a little is good, more must be better. This saying does not hold true for vitamins, since too much could be unsafe. Many people today are unsure as to whether or not their daily food can supply them with adequate nutrition, and so they take a vitamin pill to provide nutritional insurance.

There are some people that may need additional nutrients to ensure normal body functions and prevent nutrient deficiencies. These include pregnant women; women with excessive menstrual losses; people on severely restricted weight-loss diets; total vegetarians who don't consume any foods containing Vitamin B12; and those with certain metabolic disorders or who are taking those medications which increase nutrient requirements. There is, however, no evidence that vitamin supplementation has any benefit for the general population that consumes a balanced diet.

Today, there is a lot of interest in natural antioxidants and the protection they afford against cancer, heart disease, and aging. Because of this, some are promoting the regular use of supplements of vitamins A, C, and E. These antioxidants can, however, be amply supplied by foods. Fruits are rich in vitamin C, whole grains and seeds contain high levels of vitamin E, and carrots and broccoli are loaded with vitamin A.

Buyer Beware

Using vitamin supplements can be unsafe. The fat-soluble vitamins A and D are especially toxic. Large doses of B6 for the treatment of PMS or carpal tunnel syndrome have produced permanent nerve damage in some persons. Kidney damage, muscle weakness, diarrhea, irritability, fatigue, undesirable changes in blood lipid levels, headache, nerve damage, and other medical problems may result from the regular use of high-strength vitamin supplements.

In spite of their widespread use, vitamin C supplements do not reduce the incidence of colds. They may, however, slightly reduce the duration of the cold and the severity of the symptoms Such benefits can be seen with as little as 250 mg/day. Higher doses do not provide any extra benefit.