Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Are Multivitamins a Scam?

A National Institutes of Health committee investigated multivitamins and concluded that, "too few studies exist to say with any certainty whether the products are useful," reports WebMD.

When I started this blog, I didn't intend to focus on news challenging the things that health-obsessed Americans (including myself) do so they can sleep at night -- for example, skipping red meat, drinking green tea and eating soy products. But this kind of news seems to be everywhere and its hard to resist.

The latest news, on multivitamin supplements, is mixed. Basically, it's a lack of information that's fuelling the federal committee's skepticism. “The science base is especially thin with respect to the health impact of multivitamins,” said J. Michael McGinnis, MD, a senior scholar at the National Academies of Science

Misconceptions about multivitamins may rest in who's actually taking multivitamins. According to the WebMD article, "some studies suggest that more health-conscious people are the ones who take vitamins in the first place."

Panelists on the federal committee did endorse three specific supplements: antioxidants for preventing macular degeneration, folic acid (taken by pregnant women) for lowering the likelihood of birth defects and calcium (combined with vitamin D) for building bone density in women.

Can a multivitamin harm you? Yes. Some ingredients in multivitamins can be dangerous in large concentrations, said the report. For example, vitamin E, zinc, selenium, iron and vitamin D (which can cause an unsafe amount of calcium to collect in your blood). Look out for niacin as well. As reported by WebMD, "11 percent of vitamin users exceed safe levels of niacin intake, putting them at potential risk for liver problems."

I think we can glean the same lessons from this report as the recent reports on soy beans and green tea: there is no silver bullet in the quest for good health and moderation is key.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.