Are multivitamins really necessary for us?


  • Nutrition
  • Thursday, 01 Aug 2019

Many people take vitamin supplements because they believe they don't get enough of vitamins from their diet. — Photos.com

I have been taking multivitamin supplements for most of my adult life, as well as some minerals like calcium and magnesium. Recently, I read a lot of articles about how they do not improve our health. Is this true?

First of all, let us confirm that you definitely need vitamins to make you healthy and to live a normal life.

The question is always where you should get your vitamins from.

Let us first recap what vitamins are.

Okay, what are vitamins then?

Vitamins are defined as any one of a group of organic compounds that are essential for your body’s normal growth and nutrition.

They are required in small quantities only and need to be obtained from your diet because they cannot be made by your body.

What types of vitamins are there?

There are two types: water-soluble and fat-soluble.

The water-soluble vitamins are vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B7, B9, B12 and C.

The fat-soluble ones are vitamins A, D, E and K.

All vitamins can be derived from different foods. For example, vitamin C can be derived from citrus fruits like oranges, as well as papayas.

A deficiency of any particular vitamin can lead to different diseases.

Vitamin C deficiency, for example, can cause easy bruising, gum bleeding, dry hair and skin, hair loss, anaemia and scurvy.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children.

So why are people saying vitamin supplements are bad for you?

Plenty of people today all over the world take multivitamins, simply because they believe they don’t get enough from their diets.

They also take multivitamins because they want to be better-looking, smarter, stronger, healthier and to stave off dementia.

Multivitamins are also everywhere. There are entire industries that thrive off them. They are readily available in every pharmacy.

We have always been led to believe that we need multivitamins to supplement our poor diet. So why the sudden about-turn, right?

Well, this new evidence comes primarily from the analysis of three studies.

An analysis of a huge study involving 450,000 people found that multivitamins did not reduce the risk for heart disease or cancer.

Another study tracked the mental function and multivitamin use of 5,947 men for 12 years.

It concluded that multivitamins did not reduce risk for mental decline, such as memory loss or slower thinking.

This is important because many people take multivitamins in the hope that it will improve their thinking and cognition, and help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

The last study looked at 1,708 heart attack survivors who took a high-dose multivitamin or placebo for up to 55 months.

A placebo is usually a pill that has nothing, but a bit of sugar in it. It is used as a control in many studies.

The rates of subsequent heart attacks, heart surgeries and deaths were similar in the two groups.

This means that multivitamins were no better than placebos, or a pill with some sugar in it!

But how come there were previous studies that said multivitamins are good? I attended a course from a multi-level marketing company that said that.

There are many studies that say vitamin D supplements defend against a huge list of diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

There are also studies that say vitamin C wards off colds.

The truth is that these exciting supplement studies were observational. This means that they did not test against a placebo in a controlled trial like the studies in the answer above.

Observational studies do not fully control for testing one differentiating factor against another.

So they can’t prove whether or not it is the supplements or other factors like a good diet or exercise, that are the main cause of the lower rate of heart disease or cancer.

People who take multivitamin supplements are more likely to be careful about their health anyway – they tend to exercise, eat healthy and be generally healthy.

Okay, these studies say multivitamins are just as good as a placebo. But I also read on Facebook that some multivitamins are harmful! Is it true?

Yes, some of this is true.

Vitamin E was once thought to protect your heart. Hence there are many vitamin E supplements in the pharmacy.

But it was later discovered that these supplements can increase the risk of bleeding strokes if you take too much of them – and many of us are probably unaware of the recommended daily dose for each vitamin we’re suppose to take.

You should get your vitamins primarily from the food you eat.

There is a long list of foods that can provide you with sufficient amounts of the different vitamins you need.

Just look it up on the internet.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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