Are we taking too many vitamins and minerals?
Last week – from May 15 to the 17 – the ‘NIH (National Institutes of Health) State-of-the-Science Conference on Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements and Chronic Disease Prevention’ took place in Bethesda, MD.
The conference focused on vitamin and mineral use and explored a number of questions regarding their usefulness and safety.
The six questions are below, along with their conclusions:
1)What are the current patterns and prevalence of the public’s use of MVM (multivitamin/mineral) supplements?
– Over half of Americans take a MVM because they believe that it will help them feel better and be healthier.
– Sales of supplements to Americans are now at around $23 billion, with MVM being most of these.
– Women, elderly, better educated, wealthier, healthier lifestyle, disease survivors, chronic disease sufferers and lower BMI people tend to take them the most.
– Smokers, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans tend to use them less.
2)What is known about the dietary nutrient intake of MVM user versus nonusers?
– People who take MVM tend to eat healthier diets anyway.
3)What is the efficacy of single vitamin/mineral supplement use in chronic disease prevention?
The findings of the study include:
– Beta-carotene: an increase in lung cancer in smokers has been associated with use
– Vitamin B2 and niacin: decreased risk of nuclear cataracts
– Vitamin B6: no effects on cognitive decline
– Folic acid: effective when used by pregnant women in preventing neural tube defects
– Calcium and Vitamin D: used together these nutrients do help to reduce risks of fractures in postmenopausal women
4)What is the efficacy of MVM in chronic disease prevention in the general population of adults?
– Cancer: incidence of some cancers may be reduced by some vitamins or minerals, but nothing conclusive
– Cardiovascular disease: no benefits or harm were found
– Cataract: Mixed results
– Macular degeneration: one study showed benefit from vitamin C, E, beta-carotene and zinc
5)What is known about the safety of MVM for the generally health population?
Some vitamins or minerals may actually increase risks of some cancers. Consumption above the recommend UL (upper limit) may be harmful.
6)What are the major knowledge gaps and research opportunities regarding MVM use?
The panel recommends more studies to further the understanding of MVM including those related to interactions of MVM with medications and ethnic/age/gender specific studies.
The panel consisted of 13 members with expertise in nutrition, statistics, toxicology, geriatric medicine, pediatrics, cancer prevention, consumer protection and more. The panel was chaired by J. Michael McGinnis.
In their conclusion they stated ‘Finally, the present evidence is insufficient to recommend either for or against the use of MVMs by the American public to prevent chronic disease.’
An interesting interview with Dr. Meir J. Stampfer, Maret Traber, Ph.D. , Dr. Irwin Rosenberg and Dr. Johanna M. Seddon can be found at NPR: Experts Make Their Recommendations on Vitamins.
I like the point made by Dr. Meir J. Stampfer: ‘We can’t lose sight of the idea that just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. Tobacco and asbestos are natural, yet they are not safe.’. That’s a very good point that gets forgotten all too often.
The point seems very clear too that it is best to get your nutrients from the food you eat rather than from supplements. I do the best I can at this, but it is not easy all the time. I wonder how many people think that if they take a vitamin they don’t need to worry about how they eat?
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5 Responses to 'Are we taking too many vitamins and minerals?'
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on June 24th, 2006 at 3:50 pm
Glyconutrients represent the next breakthrough in supplementation technology. The research is real. Optimal wellness is now achievable and people suffering from auto immune disorders have hope.
Glyconutrients should be combined with a VERY GOOD multi-vitamin and overall wellness program.
Learn what optimal health is today.
on July 12th, 2006 at 2:48 pm
These studies are so limited and really are not what should be counted on for accurate information when it comes to Supplement use. Remember that most studies are done by Pharmaceutical companies who do NOT want people to take supplements or get well.
Please check out BOOKS to read here http://sherrirn4u2.blogster.com/books_read.html
Also check out some of my favorites which are web sites that promote wellness, and supplement use.
The problem with many Supplements and Vitamins that are sold at the drug store and GNC is that they are filled with Binders, fillings, coatings, and artificial ingredients.
You also have a 16 year old behind the counter who is not educated on Nutraceuticals.
There are good companies out here, with good supplements.
The reason why Nutraceutical companies do not fund research for their vitamins is because many supplements need to be taken together for the synergistic effect, it is hard to study this.
ALSO once the study is done, the FDA has made it clear that the Nutraceutical companies are not allowed to use this research in their advertising.
Now how fair is that?
on January 31st, 2007 at 8:55 pm
Yes the world of the internet has changed the way we shop for vitamins indeed.
I believe in natural vitamins and minerals.
When I was a kid, the only way to get information was libraries mostly. Now when I do need info I do it from my home computer. I believe in vitamins and minerals so much that I have built a website to inform people about them.
You can have a look at it at http://www.vitamins-infohealth.com and I will keep expending it.
I wrote articles as well. People dont have excuses anymore to not know about vitamins and their benefits. More and more we see and hear about cancer and other sicknesses. A body well fed with good nutrients is the best way to fight back.
Make the information available is the first step in my opinion.
Keep the blog going with great info!
on March 5th, 2007 at 8:25 pm
Sherri makes some important points. I would simply add that the issue of supplementation is highly small ‘p’ political. The FDA is a creature of the pharmaceutical industry and regulates as such. There is an element of truth to the inefficacy of single nutrientation, particularly when one understands the weakeness of the supplement industry. Products are generally based on amounts meant to combat deficiency diseases – not to prevent chronic degenerative disease. One wonders how impressed these nutritionists aren’t with statistics that show almost 90% of North Americans now living will die of chronic degenrative disease (National Centre for Chronic Degenerative Disease- Statistics Division – Centres for Disease Control) and an attenuated food supply. Moreover, the Nation Academy of Sciences has only recently earmarked sufficient research funds to study nutrients, but these have been hampered by the difficulty of studying multiple nutrients as mentioned to by the previous post.
Suffice to say that the supplement industry is indeed a jungle. I have heard nutritional scientists say that the industry as a whole – over the counter nutritional products specifically – are largely “fraudulent” with formulas geared for maximum profits and not for maximum bioavailabilty. There are, however, some exiting things happening in the nutraceutical industry, so much so that the idea that proper supplementation with Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) nutritionals made to cGMP standards are a waste of money will be looked upon as a early 21stCentury ‘flat earth society’. Pharamceutical companies have an economic imperative. Prevention of degenerative disease included in their market paradigm. The money is in illness and drugs. The health professions are largely captured by these same imperatives, unfortunatley; but the trend is as unmistakable as the science (Ask the Journal of the American Medical Association!) Nutritionists and many in the medical profession will have much to answer for when, in a decade or so, as is usually the lag between science and medicine, the results of proper cell nutrientation will be appreciated.
on April 8th, 2008 at 9:47 pm
It is true that MVMs provide numerous health benefit. However, as mentioned above(quote “Some vitamins or minerals may actually increase risks of some cancers. Consumption above the recommend UL (upper limit) may be harmful.”) I also believe that too much consumption of of MVMs also pose risks on a person’s health. For me, having a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet still is the best. Thanks for posting this, nice post.