By Anthony G. Alessi, MD – Healthy Rounds
Over half of all adults in the United States take some form of vitamin or supplement regularly. Shockingly, this practice may be shortening their lives.
Vitamins are organic components to food that the body requires for growth and activity. Vitamins and other organic supplements are generally required in small amounts that are adequately supplied in a normal diet.
Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling began writing about high dose Vitamin C in 1970 when he published “High Dose Vitamin C and the Common Cold.” He later advocated for large doses of Vitamin C as a treatment for cancer. Despite being unproven, these initiatives by a respected scientist led to widespread “megavitamin” use.
Vitamins and other supplements are most useful in patients who have a documented deficiency. Some patients are unable to absorb sufficient quantities of these essential elements due to alterations in the gastrointestinal tract.
Some medications will diminish vitamin levels and require specific supplementation. The health benefits of Vitamin D and calcium have been well-documented in post-menopausal women and in several medical conditions.
A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine associates the use of multivitamins and vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, zinc and copper with greater mortality. The study involved over 38,000 women.
While this study is far from conclusive, it serves as an alert. It reinforces that the “some is good but more is better” theory is not a good policy in medicine. Vitamins are medications and should only be taken on the advice of a physician.
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