Are vitamins harmful?

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Do not go on about the sensational news and prejudiced science, exposing vitamin-mineral complexes. The stakes are very high – at stake is no less than your health.

Author: Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

"Vitamins are a waste of money!" – headlines of tabloids scream, and this news is instantly picked up by all the media. Moreover, the publications warn the reader that vitamins not only waste his money, but they can also ruin his health.

This view of vitamins and mineral elements was published in the Yearbook of Therapeutic Medicine, under the headline "It was played, and enough: stop spending money on vitamin and mineral complexes." The authorship belongs to the editorial board of doctors, you know, those same doctors who do not consider it necessary to tell you about proper nutrition and nutritional supplements, and in whom from one thought about physical exercises the hand reaches out to the prescription form.

The editorial board's assertion that vitamin-mineral complexes are useless is based on the results of 3 studies published in one issue of the Yearbook of Therapeutic Medicine. All right – only three studies. Moreover, they ignore the data of numerous scientific works carried out over several decades, which confirm the useful properties of these drugs. So, it's time to study these 3 studies, which served as an excuse for sensational news.

The first study, in fact, is a sub-study in the "Study of the Health of Physicians II." Scientific work is an analysis of the health of almost 6000 male doctors aged 65 years and older. The authors of the study did not find differences in cognitive functions between representatives of the multivitamin group and the placebo group.

Interestingly, the authors concluded that the dosage of vitamin complexes was insufficient to realize their beneficial properties. It should also be noted that the results of another sub-study in the "Study of the Health of Physicians II", published in 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that taking multivitamins reduces the risk of cancer. However, this fact was not reflected in the sensational editorial.

The second study was devoted to the prospects of taking high doses of vitamins by patients who had suffered a heart attack. The scientists concluded that 5-year-old intake of vitamins by patients did not reduce the risk of developing repeated cardiovascular diseases in comparison with the group receiving the placebo.

Indeed, even taking into account the useful properties of most vitamins, they are unlikely to be able to protect against recurrences of cardiovascular diseases in a person whose medical history has a heart attack. Damage to health has already been done.

In short, this study is a dubious choice to justify the claim that vitamins and minerals are absolutely useless.

The third study supplemented the recommendations previously published by the US Preventative Service (USPSTF) on the effectiveness of vitamin complexes in terms of primary prevention in elderly people who do not need outside care and who do not experience nutritional deficiencies.

The authors of the editorial report state that taking beta-carotene and vitamin E increases the overall mortality. Meanwhile, the USPSTF has not revealed any reason to doubt the safety profile of vitamins. In fact, the report says that "the USPSTF has found compelling evidence for the safety of vitamin E," and concerns about beta-carotene have been confined to smokers only.

It turns out that the editorial board turned everything upside down and distorted the data of official science to create a semblance of doubt about the safety of certain vitamins.

The editorial board of the doctors did not say a word about dozens of scientific studies confirming the useful properties of vitamin-mineral complexes. It is no wonder, after all, they consciously looked at the question with one, profitable side for themselves. Meanwhile, studies that prove the benefits of taking vitamins and minerals are incomparably greater than those that claim the opposite. In fact, numerous studies show that taking multivitamins reduces the risk of developing certain diseases and deaths. Here are just a few examples:

In 2012, the June issue of the "European Dietetics Journal" published the results of a study conducted by German scientists. In the group of 24000 people who took vitamin-mineral complexes from the first day of the experiment, for 11 years there was a decrease in total mortality by 42%, and the risk of cancer mortality decreased by 48%.

In 2012, the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology published a report in which it was suggested that taking multivitamins could reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.

In a study completed at Harvard in 2010, it was said that taking multivitamins, in particular containing vitamins A, C and E, reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer. In another study, conducted in 2010 by employees of the Karolinska Institute (Sweden), it was reported that taking multivitamin complexes at 30% reduces the risk of developing myocardial infarction in women.

In 2009, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a report in which it was reported that taking multivitamins for 10 and more years reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 16%, and the supplementation of vitamin E reduces this risk by almost 30%.

In 2009, the National Institute for the Study of Environmental Health (USA) presented a report in which it was reported that the biological age of women taking multivitamins is lower in comparison with subjects who do not receive vitamin preparations. The telomere length was used as an evaluation criterion.

In 2007, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that taking selenium in combination with multivitamins reduces the risk of prostate cancer by 40%.

In 2003, another study was published in the Yearbook of Therapeutic Medicine. The scientists stated that 130 adults taking vitamins and minerals during 1 year were much less likely to have infectious diseases, in particular, ARVI, gastrointestinal infections, influenza and infections of the urogenital tract. In addition, there was a reported decrease in the incidence of temporary disability due to illness in comparison with the group receiving the placebo.

I was interested in the fact that the advice of doctors of medicine who concocted that controversial article was limited to a single sub-study within the framework of the "Study of the Health of Physicians II", in which there was no difference in the cognitive function between placebo and small doses of multivitamins.

At the same time, many studies have been published that confirm the positive effect of taking multivitamins on mental activity. Here are a few examples:

In 2012, scientists from Australia analyzed the data of 10 scientific works that studied the effect of vitamin complexes on the cognitive functions of more than 3000 volunteers. They came to the conclusion that taking multivitamins was accompanied by an improvement in memory in women.

In 2012, the journal "Psychopharmacology" published a report in which it was reported that a significant improvement in memory was observed in elderly women with signs of deterioration in cognitive function that received vitamin-mineral complexes during 4 months compared to patients given placebo.

In 2010, scientists from the UK concluded that young and middle-aged women taking vitamin and mineral complexes for 9 weeks are better at solving mental problems than women receiving a placebo.

Improvement of mental activity is typical not only for women. In 2011, scientists from Australia reported that 8-week intake of multivitamins increases the concentration of attention in men and creates a positive attitude in everyday life.

In 2010, researchers from the UK found that men who took vitamin-mineral complexes for 5 weeks were better able to cope with intellectual tests, were less mentally tired and noted a rush of vigor compared to men receiving a placebo. Such a beneficial effect on mental functions manifested itself in childhood.

In 2008, in the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists from the UK published a report that raised the concentration and cognitive functions in children aged 8-14 years after the 12-week course of taking multivitamins.

In 2003, Lewin Group conducted a large-scale research project that showed that the daily intake of multivitamins by elderly people in five years (from 2004 to 2008) will help the US government cut health care spending by more than 1,6 billion.

This year, Frost & Sullivan, commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), conducted a similar study and concluded that taking food supplements would help the health care system save billions of dollars by reducing hospitalization and seeking other types of medical care.

A variety of food additives and medical conditions have got into the lens of scientists. The influence on the work of the heart of omega-3 fats, B vitamins, plant sterols and dietary fiber of plantain was studied. The effect of lutein and zeaxanthin on the function of the visual analyzer, chromium picolinate – on the cardiovascular pathology caused by diabetes, calcium and vitamin D – on the state of bone tissue was analyzed.

To create a truly objective picture, researchers have included in the meta-analysis all scientific works – with both positive and negative conclusions and the lack of reliable changes. And this comprehensive analysis led to positive results. The intake of calcium and vitamin D can lead to an annual savings of more than 1,5 billion dollars only by reducing the cost of treating osteoporosis. Some food additives, in particular plant sterols, can annually save the treasury 3,3 billion dollars by reducing the volume of cardiac care.

Let's pay attention to the fact that Frost & Sullivan has come to the conclusion that taking food supplements can save billions of dollars for the healthcare system. Now an editorial written by the doctors' council begins to make sense. Who will agree to donate billions of dollars of profit if people start taking their health seriously and decide to go in for sports, eat better and use proper nutritional supplements?

You definitely should be distrustful of doctors who say with foam at the mouth that vitamin-mineral complexes are useless and dangerous, and at the same time, without a shadow of a doubt, prescribe strong prescription drugs to patients when the slightest signs of deterioration of health appear.

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