What Vitamins, If Any, Should You Be Taking?

Synthetic vitamins and supplements may not have the same long term protection against disease as the actual consumption of fruits and vegetables with the same nutrients. This finding has not been proven conclusively, but evidence indicates that single supplements cannot substitute for actually eating whole foods. People cannot continue bad habits and expect the same protection whole foods provides against diseases.

Why Vitamin Supplements May Not Be the Answer

According to a 2003 study conducted by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), there is not enough evidence to conclude that vitamin A, C or E supplements will prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease. The efficacy of multivitamins with folic acid and other antioxidant supplements have not been proven effective against cancer or cardiovascular disease either.

Studies have shown that eating fresh fruits or vegetables can lower the risk of disease development. A single bowl of spinach salad can have more vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants than consuming supplements. People in China who have higher level of Vitamin C in the blood (by eating fruits in their diets), according to “The China Study“, has been proven to have less incidence of cancer.

Carotenoids are a powerful antioxidants, most studies have found a direct connection between carotenoids and a lower frequency of macular degeneration, most experts recommend receiving carotenoids by eating foods like broccoli, spinach, carrots, winter squash and citrus fruits. Carotenoids found in green leafy vegetables (Spinach) are the most protective against diseases. Taking supplements showed little or no effects.

How Over-Consumption of Vitamins Can Hurt

In this report by NY Times:

Over-consumption of vitamin A may be a greater risk for osteoporosis, it is easy if individuals are getting vitamin A in food and in supplements also. People who exceed five times the recommended dose may reach a dangerous level.

A European study revealed that folic acid supplements actually had negative effects on heart disease patients. Half of the patients were given folic acid and the other half of the patients were given a placebo. The patients who took folic acid had more constricted arteries than patients who did not take folic acid. This is the opposite of what most experts expected to find.

Many nutritionists do not take multivitamins because there is no conclusive evidence showing that diseases are prevented from multivitamins. Minerals and vitamins have tendency to cancel each other out. Zinc may compete with iron, and iron may compete with calcium.

Another study conducted on the effects of vitamin A and beta carotene supplements on cancer had no benefits. In some instances, people who took supplements actually had higher incidences of cancer. This is alarming to many people who rely on supplements.

Should You Be Taking Vitamins?

The short answer according to these studies seem to be no. Whole foods seem to be more effective against cancer and other diseases. The studies conducted seem to only address synthetic vitamin supplements. No studies have been conducted regarding pure food, organic vitamins which may not have the same absorption issues of synthetic vitamins.

What Supplements Should I Be Taking?

Studies have shown that 70 percent of the population is taking vitamins. Many people are consuming more than the recommended daily allowance without consuming fruits or vegetables. Supplements are not an adequate substitute.

Most experts advocate a diet rich in plant-based foods, whole foods and an average of 10% of calories coming from animal proteins [I’d recommend eating fish in moderation (Anchovies, Sardines, Shrimp or Mackerel 2-3 times a week)] to improve patient health.. For those of you who are vegan (do not eat animal proteins) a daily dose of vitamin b12 is recommended. A vitamin D supplement is also recommended for people who cannot get out of doors and spend time outside (If you can stay outdoor for 15-20 minutes daily you don’t need to take Vitamin D supplements).