Be Smart. Take Your Vitamins. Just Stop Taking Mega Vitamins

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Should We or Shouldn’t We Take Vitamins? What About Mega Vitamins?

This question surfaces often and the media has latched onto it once again given some new research findings and the viral Twitter photo of Katy Perry displaying her daily vitamin regimen.

So we all know what Katy Perry’s answer to this question would be.

If we look at the published research, we find lots of contradictions. Here are two examples:

Example #1
Recently Paul Offit wrote an op-ed in the NY Times entitled Don’t Take Your Vitamins extolling the reader to stop taking vitamins because “scientists have known for years that large doses of supplemental vitamins can be quite harmful.” The problem I have with this article is that the title gives people the wrong impression. “Don’t Take Your Vitamins” leads people to the conclusion that we shouldn’t take ANY vitamins. When really the author is talking about MEGA vitamins. Large doses of vitamins. Katy Perry style! Maybe the article should have been titled “Don’t Be Katy Perry”.

Offit goes on to explain:
“Nutrition experts argue that people need only the recommended daily allowance — the amount of vitamins found in a routine diet.” Routine diet is at the core of this issue but the author skims over it. That is unfortunate because I think it’s a topic that deserves to be addressed. Today’s “routine diet” is not the nutrient-dense diet of old. Processing has stripped the majority of nutrients from our foods. People eating a large amount of processed foods need to supplement with vitamins. Notice I didn’t say MEGA-doses of vitamins. But at least the recommended daily allowance. Unfortunately, the media blitz that has ensued could have people thinking they should ditch all of their vitamins.

Example #2
Which is perhaps why Dr. Mark Hyman responds to the media uproar caused by “Don’t Take Your Vitamins” by writing his own article “Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins.”
Dr. Hyman’s opinion centers around the research and he explains why so many of the studies are flawed.

So how does the layman try to make sense of it all?

If food is the best source of vitamins, how would you rate your source?

Consider the following:
Stop Taking Mega Vitamins

1. Is your daily food intake providing you with all the vitamins you need to live a healthy life?

Don’t overlook the importance of absorption. Remember that certain foods, both healthy and unhealthy, prevent the absorption of nutrients and may require you to consume more of that nutrient.

2. Are you malnourished?

Keep in mind that the term malnutrition is no longer considered a disease of the poor. Malnutrition now also means Over-nutrition which is a disease of affluence and the reason why now we are seeing people who are fat AND malnourished because they are consuming large amounts of nutrient-deficient foods.

When answering the above 2 questions you must consider whether or not you are eating nutrient-dense foods or “dead” foods, i.e. foods lacking in nutrients. For more info on what those foods are see my article Eat Yourself Healthy. The more processed foods you eat, the less vitamins you are getting. So a good multivitamin may be something you need.

Who should take vitamin supplements?

That issue was addressed in a nutrition course I recently took through the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and Coursera. Dietician Jamie Pope, MS, RD, LDN prefaced her statements on supplements by reminding us that Vitamin-Mineral Supplements should not be viewed as replacements for healthful foods. That bears repeating and people who know me have heard me say this over and over again. “Supplements are not Replacements”. And taking Mega doses of vitamins will not undo the damage done by poor eating habits. It is much safer to change one’s lifestyle.

For those of us who would like a guide as to who might benefit from vitamin supplements, here is the list presented by Jamie Pope. I’ve also included a link to my vitamin of choice in the categories mentioned.

  1. Pregnant and Lactating Women.
  2. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding:
    Iron, (Vitamin C)
  3. Women of childbearing age/premenopausal women:

    folate, iron, calcium

  4. Smokers:
    B vitamins, Vitamin C
  5. Individuals who abuse alcohol:
    Multivitamin mineral supplement (Vitamin B1, Folate, B6, C)
  6. Individuals with restricted or limited diets:
    Multivitamin-mineral supplement
  7. Vegetarians:
    calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B2 and B12, vitamin D.
  8. Individuals with limited milk intake and/or sun exposure:
    calcium, vitamin D.
  9. Older adults (>70 years of age):
    calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, B6, zinc.
  10. Individuals with a health condition that affects nutrient utilization and absorption.
  11. Individuals with compromised immune function.
  12. Some infants:
    Vitamin D (breastfed infants), fluoride, iron

When it comes to food and vitamin supplements you can be sure of one thing, no one will agree. These are emotional issues and no two people are the same. That is why it’s so important for each one of us to do our homework and to tune in to our body and figure out what it needs. If you don’t know how to do that, a consult with a nutrition specialist may be needed.

Vitamins and Absorption

If taking vitamin supplements is part of your regimen there is one question you must ask yourself: “How well are these vitamins absorbed by the body?” That is the critical question. For information on how the delivery system affects the efficacy of vitamin absorption check out the page on Isotonix Vitamins on this site.

In the end, when it comes to food or vitamins “You are what you absorb.”

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Mushing in Ocean City MD