Vitamin Supplements: Good or Bad?

By: MN Nikk

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) reports that, in 2006, Britons spent ?220 million on vitamin and mineral supplements and, more surprising, that as many as 43 percent of UK adults had taken vitamin or mineral supplements over the previous 12 months, with usage highest among the 50-65 age group. The most popular supplements of 2006 were cod liver oil and multivitamins, although the fastest growing market is that of 'mega-dose' vitamin and mineral products. Some manufacturers of such products reported an increase in sales of more than 20 percent in the last three years.

Undeterred by the occasional warnings that overdosing on vitamins in the morning may damage the body, it seems that people are determined to compensate for their less than healthy lifestyles by loading up on vitamins. That the body needs vitamins is not in dispute. Vitamins are a small group of substances that are essential in tiny quantities for growth and development and since most of them cannot be manufactured by the body, it follows that they must come from our diet. The problem is that some people think that you can eat anything, take vitamin pills and enjoy great health.

It's easy to see why the idea that a steady diet of junk food can be cancelled by bottles of vitamins, resulting in a healthy lifestyle is so popular. People like to know they can do anything they feel like and then take a pill that erases all the negative consequences. It's called having the cake and eating it at the same time. Naturally, not all people think like that and some of them do try their best to follow the prevailing health advice. Nevertheless, they know that they will fall short of the ideal and take vitamins as a kind of insurance policy.

Unfortunately for all these people, many studies have since shown that vitamins from supplements do not act on the body in the same way as vitamins from foods. The best thing to do is to actually eat a balanced diet and get your vitamins from a natural source. Apples, for instance, are a rich source of vitamin C, which builds up the immune system and also contain many the antioxidants called flavanoids and polyphenols that are thought to protect against cancer. This meant that eating a small apple (100g) gave an antioxidant effect equivalent to taking 1500mg of vitamin C - and you'd have to take a mega-dose supplement to achieve that.

A further reason to avoid mega doses of vitamins is that they can have toxic effects. This is particularly true with the fat-soluble vitamins that will be stored in the liver, like vitamin A. They can eventually reach toxic levels and cause liver damage. Even the water-soluble vitamin C can cause diarrhea at levels of 2000mg a day. Taking vitamins and food supplements is neither good nor bad, but unnecessary for most of us. There is a lot to be said for saving the money and splashing out once in a while on a nutritious and delicious well-balanced meal at a ritzy restaurant instead.

E-Diet
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on E-Diet