The pros and cons of multi-vitamin supplements PDF Print E-mail

Multi-vitamins and mineral supplements are widely used to augment diets.....

Most of them contain 10 kinds of vitamins and the same number of minerals (except for calcium), packed into one tablet, to meet the 100 percent Daily Value (DV) the body requires. Some brands provide more than the daily requirement.

There is some ambiguity among consumers regarding the nature of mineral supplements, and whether they are a drug or food. Drugs are artificial or natural substances with a definite formula and a definite amount. The effect they have on the body, as well as their side effects, can be clearly determined. Herbal or mineral supplements, on the other hand, cannot be clearly monitored for their effects on the body.

Most medicines or pharmaceuticals today are created in the laboratory using artificial substances or extracts from nature. The procedure is based on scientific lab research and statistical analysis, while traditional herb recipes are based on trial and error, often after thousands of years.

Looked at from this angle, multi-vitamins and mineral supplements are in between the two categories. Some people expect too much from these pills, which claim to prevent the common cold, improve immunity, reduce fatigue, increase energy and lower the risk of certain illnesses. Current research has not yielded significant results that multi-vitamin and mineral supplements can successfully fulfill their claims.

Modern day dietary habits, which include eating junk food or highly processed (de-natured) food, leave most people lacking in minerals and vitamins that are crucial to health. Informal research has shown that those who take multi-vitamin and mineral supplements have a lower chance of developing some diseases such as colon cancer, heart diseases and coronary diseases.

Multi-vitamin and mineral supplements are recommended for:

The elderly: Most of the elderly have lower appetites and therefore eat less food, both in terms of amount and variety. Their digestive systems often do not function well, so they often lack vitamin D, vitamin B and magnesium (Mg).

Reproductive women: Women trying to get pregnant need more than 400 micrograms of folate (in folic acid supplement) each day. This vitamin is crucial to the healthy development of the foetus during pregnancy. However, folate should be ready and sufficient in the body before pregnancy begins. Furthermore, menstruating women might lack iron.

Breastfeeding women: During breastfeeding, women need more minerals and vitamins. In this case, however, only doctors should prescribe supplements.

Vegetarians: Those who do not eat meat usually lack vitamin B12, zinc, iron and calcium.

Other cases: People on a diet, smokers, drinkers and those who do not like healthy food also should consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Having spoken of the benefits of supplements, now it is time to point out counter arguments and possible risks from such supplements. There is a high trend of breast cancer and prostate cancer among those who consume an excessive amount of mineral supplements.

Vitamin A, for example, if consumed in excessive amounts, can weaken bones. Having said that, health experts have yet to find sufficient evidence that clearly outlines the benefits and safety of supplements, or that they have any direct benefit in prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, coronary disease and age-related muscular degeneration.

Another example is a study from China that found a link between multi-vitamin and mineral supplement intake and reduced risk of developing cancer. However, in 2007, a cancer institute in the United States published a study which found that men who take excessive multi-vitamin supplements stand more chance of developing prostate cancer.

Multi-vitamin and mineral supplements should only be recommended to those who need extra dietary support. Research in the US shows that many people receive excessive vitamin intake, but are significantly lacking vitamins and minerals from proper dietary habits.

Eating a healthy, fresh, and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is by far the best way to maintain wellness.

Source from: Bangkok Post



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