On Taking Vitamins (The Problems With Pill Popping)

As the title suggests, there may be a downside to taking all those vitamins you are taking. Recent studies are now showing that taking too many vitamins may actually increase your risk of certain diseases including cancer.

Forbes actually did a article talking about this recent study and what it means for us called “A bad week for the nutritional supplements industry.”

The overall message was a good one… “Don’t waste your money on supplements”

While this may be true, the writer spent little time on his last statement… “Supplements are only needed if you have a demonstrable deficiency.”

His advice is solid when he says to eat whole fruits and vegetables to get your micronutrients and vitamins, but there is obviously more to be discussed about this issue.

Quite a few years back there was some controversy over multivitamins and the amount of iron they contained in them. Iron toxicity is a potential problem, especially for men, because it causes increased oxidation in the cells of your body which in turn increases potential for disease.

Now this is just one of the many things that are found in multivitamins and the nutritional industry responded by providing multivitamins that are “iron free”.

This is the problem with a pill that tries to provide everything. When you try to solve everything at once you often get less than you expected.

The key here is to focus on actual problems, actual deficiencies that you have that are proven through blood tests and other means. A blood panel could cost you less than $100 which is about a year’s supply of multivitamins, but it could help you so much more.

We get nearly everything we need from the foods we eat, and if we are lacking in something then it might be wise to eat food rich in that vitamin instead of taking it in pill form.

Now before I throw the baby out with the bath water, I do want to mention a few exceptions.

Magnesium, Calcium, B Complex Vitamins, Vitamin D

Every single one of these can be had in your diet besides Vitamin D which is primarily synthesized from the sun. So here are the exceptions.

The B Vitamin Folic Acid should be supplemented for pregnant women.

Vitamin D should be supplemented for those with inadequate sun exposure.

Calcium should be supplemented for those that do not do weight-bearing exercises, get inadequate foods that contain calcium such as dairy and green leafy vegetables, and those that drink too much soda and/or coffee which leaches calcium from the bones. The downside to calcium supplementation is that it has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease because it plays a role in “calcifying” the plague in your arteries thereby making it harder to remove.

Magnesium should be supplemented in a 2 to 1 ratio with calcium because too much calcium blocks magnesium. (You shouldn’t take either if you get it in your diet). Again, eating plenty of green leafy vegetables and other foods with magnesium should give you an adequate amount.

So if you aren’t a pregnant woman you should simply do weight-bearing exercises, eat your leafy greens, and get some sunlight, and you won’t need to supplement at all.

Occasionally people will have certain other deficiencies, but these are the most common ones. The important thing to note is that you can get an adequate amount of all of them through diet, exercise, and sun exposure. And no one should really be wasting their money on supplements unless they have had a blood test and it is recommended from a doctor.

This is our 13th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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