hshawcross

Vitamins and minerals: health benefits and risks explained.

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What is healthy vitamins and minerals intake

Vitamins, dietary minerals and trace elements are essential to the healthy function of the human body. Vitamins are organic compounds that are vital to, but not always produced by, the body and so have to be obtained through the diet. Similarly, dietary minerals (e.g. calcium and phosphorous) and trace elements, of which even smaller amounts are required (e.g. zinc and selenium), are acquired through food. For the majority of people, a balanced, nutritious diet satisfies the body’s vitamin and mineral requirements.[1]

 

There are two types of vitamins; fat soluble and water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are found mainly in fatty foods and animal products, such as oils, butter, eggs, liver and oily fish. Whilst the body requires a constant supply of these vitamins, the tiny quantities needed coupled with their storage in the liver and fatty tissue for use when required mean that it is not vital to consume them every day. In fact large doses of fat soluble vitamins can be harmful. For example, the risk of lung and stomach cancers is increased in those who consume 20-30mg/day of B-carotene.[2] However many of the side effects seen with excess vitamin intake are not likely to happen as a result of dietary intake, but rather by exceeding the recommended dose with supplementation.[3], [4] [5]

Water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C, folic acid and niacin are found in a wide range of foods including vegetables, fruit, potatoes, grains and dairy food.[6] These water soluble vitamins are less stable than fat soluble vitamins. They are often destroyed by heat or air, meaning that they cannot be stored by the body and excesses are excreted in urine. The consumption of foods containing water soluble vitamins is therefore needed more often, to maintain the body’s supply. As they are excreted in the urine, water soluble vitamins are generally less harmful than fat soluble vitamins, although very high doses may have an adverse effect on the body.[7] For example, large doses vitamin C can cause diarrhoea,[8] while excess folic acid can have effects that range from abdominal cramps and nausea to confusion and increased seizure frequency.[9]

Dietary minerals and trace elements have many functions including building strong bones and teeth, regulating the composition of the fluid inside and surrounding cells, and converting food to energy.[10] However high doses taken over a long period can be harmful, as demonstrated by the doubling of hospital admissions for gastrointestinal problems, 17% increase in kidney stones and 20-40% increase in the risk of a heart attack in those taking calcium supplements.[11]

Despite the fact that a varied, healthy diet will provide adequate amounts of all essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements for most people, the use of dietary supplementation is increasing. There is no real evidence, that taking synthesised vitamins and mineral supplements has any real benefit to health. Furthermore, in addition to a lack of proven efficacy, the manufacture of dietary supplements is not regulated as stringently as that of medicines. This is because they are not classified as a food or a drug, and as such, they are not technically permitted to make any health claims. More worryingly, no clinical trials are required prior to their production and sale. Many supplements are manufactured by synthetic methods and contain additives such as sweeteners, which may be harmful to health, and they can interact with prescribed medications with serious and even life-threatening results.[12]

In conclusion, naturally occurring vitamins and microelements are an important part of our diet. Whilst many synthetic supplements are available that contain high doses of these essential nutrients, it is often the case that our dietary intake is sufficient, except in cases of diseases or conditions that result in a vitamin deficiency. The potential for damaging effects seen with high intake of certain man made vitamins, coupled with the possibility for drug interactions means that you could be doing more harm than good by taking these ‘healthy’ supplements.

 

[1]  FAO/WHO (2001) Human vitamin and mineral requirements. Retrieved April 2016 from, http://www.fao.org/3/a-y2809e.pdf

[2]  Druesne-Pecollo N, et al. (2010) Beta-carotene supplementation and cancer risk: a systematic review and metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials.Int J Cancer. 127(1). 172-84.

[3] Schwalfenberg, GK. & Genius, SJ. (2015) Vitamin D, Essential Minerals, and Toxic Elements: Exploring Interactions between Nutrients and Toxicants in Clinical Medicine.ScientificWorldJournal. 318595.

[4]  Brown, AC. (2016) An overview of Herb and dietary supplement efficacy, safety and government regulations in the United States with suggested improvements. Part 1 of 5 series. Food Chem Toxicol. [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2016.11.001.

[5] Brown, AC. (2016) Liver toxicity related to herbs and dietary supplements: Online table of case reports. Part 3 of 6. Food Chem Toxicol. [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2016.07.001.

[6] CSU (2012) Water-soluble vitamins: B-complex and vitamin C. Retrieved November 2016 from, http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/foodnut/09312.pdf

[7]  CSU (2012) Fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and KB-complex and vitamin C. Retrieved November 2016 from, http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/foodnut/09315.pdf

[8] Mulholland, CA, Benford, DJ. (2007) What is known about the safety of multivitamin-multimineral supplements for the generally healthy population? Theoretical basis for harm. Am J Clin Nutr. 85(1). 318S-322S

[9] Rogovik, AL, Vohra, S, Goldman, RD. (2010) Safety considerations and potential interactions of vitamins: should vitamins be considered drugs? Ann Pharmacother. 44(2). 311-24.

[10] Shenkin, A. (2006) Micronutrients in health and disease. Postgrad Med J. 82(971). 559-567.

[11] Reid, IR, Bristow, SM, Bolland, MJ. (2015) Calcium supplements: benefits and risks. J Intern Med. 278(4). 354-68.

[12] Williamson, EM. (2003) Drug-interactions between herbal and prescription medicines. Drug Saf. 26(15). 1075-92.

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I knew that you cannot be overdosed with vitamins, as organism consume as much as it needs and anything left is excreted without any adverse consequences. It turns out such opinion is a wide-spread misconception.

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Why don't you provide figures? How much vitamin I should eat to exceed recommended amount? What is recommended amount?

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On 22.09.2016 at 2:14 PM, hshawcross said:

There is no real evidence, that taking synthesised vitamins and mineral supplements has any real benefit to health.

Naturally, there is no evidence. I think vitamins were tested long ago, when they were extracted from fruits and vegetables for the first time, and it's no use to test synthesized vitamins, since there is no difference between synthesized and natural vitamins.

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Wow! I was assured that the more vitamins I eat, the healthier I will be. Fruits and vegetables became my main food, anything to eat more vitamins. I've never thought vitamins can be harmful. My diet definitely will be revised :)

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Completely agree, if you are healthy man there is no need to eat dietary supplements. There is so much food naturally enriched with vitamins and so much tasty meals you can cook. The world is going crazy, people stuff themselves with junk food and try to compensate it with artificial vitamins.

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On 5/18/2017 at 10:33 AM, berta83 said:

Completely agree, if you are healthy man there is no need to eat dietary supplements. There is so much food naturally enriched with vitamins and so much tasty meals you can cook. The world is going crazy, people stuff themselves with junk food and try to compensate it with artificial vitamins.

People just do what big corps want them to do. We don't realise it, but we are all governed by big money, through the ads just like marionettes and the supplement business and its popularity, despite the medical proof supplements can do more harm than good, is the best example of us being fooled.  

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Do not spread panic without reason! Every pack of dietary supplements has instructions how much of it you should eat per day, and if you are not stupid and do not think "the more, the better", just if you follow the instructions, everything will be OK. There is nothing to worry. 

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On 25.04.2017 at 3:04 PM, viggo1123 said:

Naturally, there is no evidence. I think vitamins were tested long ago, when they were extracted from fruits and vegetables for the first time, and it's no use to test synthesized vitamins, since there is no difference between synthesized and natural vitamins.

vigo1223, can't agree with you, the difference between vitamins from fruits and vegetables and synthesized vitamins is huge. This is a discussed topic, see for example this article: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/14/multivitamins-a-waste-of-money-and-just-create-very-expensive-urine. The professionals say that multivitamins are not efficient at all, and only balanced diet can be beneficial to everyone who wants to be healthy. 

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On 5/24/2017 at 1:36 PM, sherileod said:
On 5/18/2017 at 10:33 AM, berta83 said:

Completely agree, if you are healthy man there is no need to eat dietary supplements. There is so much food naturally enriched with vitamins and so much tasty meals you can cook. The world is going crazy, people stuff themselves with junk food and try to compensate it with artificial vitamins.

People just do what big corps want them to do. We don't realise it, but we are all governed by big money, through the ads just like marionettes and the supplement business and its popularity, despite the medical proof supplements can do more harm than good, is the best example of us being fooled.  

Girls, sorry, but your thinking is a bit limited. The fact that we have the ability to buy vitamins in form of drugs is a big benefit. When you have vitamin deficiency, you just eat small pills, it's easy and effective. But when you opt to consume fruits and vegetables, you will need to eat huge amounts to benefit from them. So it's a great result of the progress and I'm happy to have easy to buy and easy to eat vitamins. 

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On 6/19/2017 at 3:00 PM, fonmilko said:

Girls, sorry, but your thinking is a bit limited. The fact that we have the ability to buy vitamins in form of drugs is a big benefit. When you have vitamin deficiency, you just eat small pills, it's easy and effective. But when you opt to consume fruits and vegetables, you will need to eat huge amounts to benefit from them. So it's a great result of the progress and I'm happy to have easy to buy and easy to eat vitamins. 

I would recommend to read the article in full and learn of at least some pros and cons. Do you love McDonalds food? Or maybe sausages, crisps and chocolate bars? These foods are a quick fix to address your general hunger just as supplement pills to address your shortage of nutrients. There is no quick and good fix in life but I am no tutor to you, no luck in this thinking. 

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On 6/19/2017 at 3:00 PM, fonmilko said:

Girls, sorry, but your thinking is a bit limited. The fact that we have the ability to buy vitamins in form of drugs is a big benefit. When you have vitamin deficiency, you just eat small pills, it's easy and effective. But when you opt to consume fruits and vegetables, you will need to eat huge amounts to benefit from them. So it's a great result of the progress and I'm happy to have easy to buy and easy to eat vitamins. 

fonmilko, if you have problems with consumption of fruits or vegetables on regular basis in your diet, you may choose vitamins in form of pills, but not artificial. I thought at pharmacy vitamins obtained from natural ingredients can be found too, so not atificial, they are just concentrated in a pill, although I never sought for them and would be great to get some knowledge confirmed on this. And talking about progress, it's results shouldn't be harmful to people or environment, and if synthesized vitamins can do harm, don't call them a benefit. 

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Not just synthesized vitamins can be harmful. A lot of remedies of alternative medicine are not proved to be effective and some even are linked to increased level of illness or death. For example Aspirin, a well-known heart medication, in combination with ginger or green tea can lead to internal bleeding. It's critical to understand that vitamins (either artificial or natural) can also harm us, if consumed when not needed or in excessive amounts.  

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