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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Vitamin MYTH - (Part 1)

While some vitamin supplements can boost your health, others may actually harm. New research not only refutes many of these claims, it also shows that some of these vitamins may in fact be harmful.
  • A February report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that taking antioxidant vitamins actually increased a person's risk of dying by up to 16%.
  • A study by researchers at the University of Washington last May found that high doses of vitamin E taken over 10 years slightly elevated lung cancer risk in smokers.
  • Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that men who took more than 1 multivitamin daily had a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Everyone needs vitamins and minerals, which are crucial for good health and long life. What we don't need are megadoses of these essential nutrients in pill form. The greatest health benefits come when we get our vitamins from a balanced diet-but only 3% of us eat well enough for that. So unless your doctor has advised you to take a supplement for a specific medical reason, a daily multivitamin is all most healthy individuals need. Read labels to see how much you're getting of each nutrient, and ask your doctor before starting any vitamin regimen, especially if you already take prescription drugs. Based on the latest studies, here are 10 you can skip:

  • Vitamin A - Excess amounts accumulate and can be toxic. Too much A can blur vision, cause headaches and vomiting, and also lead to liver, bone and central nervous system problems, among others. RDA: Men-900mcg. Women-700mcg. Other food sources: fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, fruits, sweet potatoes.
  • Beta carotene - The body converts this into vitamin A. Supplementation is not recommended for the general public and should be avoided especially by smokers, who have a greater risk of lung cancer with regular use. Another recent study found that high levels of beta carotene in the blood were linked to 3x the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
    RDA: None established. You can get what you need from dark green and orange fruits and veggies.
  • Vitamin C - There's no conclusive evidence that it prevents colds, heart disease, cataracts or cancer.
    RDA Men: 90mg. Women:75mg. Smokers need an extra 35mg. A glass of OJ will give you almost all you need.