A recent report, published in the Annuls of Internal Medicine, found that consumers should not take beta-carotene or vitamin E, two common “self-prescribed” supplements, specifically to help prevent cancer or heart disease. The study found that these supplements, alone or in combination may actually do more harm than good.
This new study follows a number of recent studies that raised worries about the safety of vitamin supplements. This brings a number of questions to mind: Should anyone be taking vitamin supplements? Which ones are most risky? If you do take them, which ones should you take? How can you pick the safest ones?
Vitamins have long had what some people call a “health halo.” Many people think that they are good for everyone, no matter what they eat (or don’t eat). The industry calls them an “insurance policy against bad eating.”
But, vitamins are often added to the foods we eat. Who remembers that ad for a certain white bread that claims it is “enhanced with 12 essential vitamins and minerals?” Or, look at a carton of milk and you will likely see “fortified with Vitamins A and D.”
So, do you really need to take extra vitamins every day? Well, you should know that there is still no clear evidence that multivitamins lower the risk of cancer, heart disease or any other chronic health problems. And, no U.S. government agency recommends them for everyone. In fact, too much of certain vitamins can actually be harmful. Most experts agree that the best way to get essential vitamins is to eat foods that naturally contain them. And, as a bonus, healthy foods contain more than just vitamins and minerals, including fiber. But, if you have any questions, you should check with your doctor.
Vitamin D is probably the only nutrient that many of us may need to supplement. Sunlight is a great natural source of vitamin D, but with more people spending more and more time indoors, their exposure to the sun is limited. This is especially true of people who live in northern states where the days are short in the winter months.
The bottom line is that, for most of us, a good multivitamin will do no harm, but it probably won’t do much good either as long as we eat a varied, healthy diet. And it can save you some real money!
To learn more about healthy eating and saving money, check out our Eat Great, Live Well Program. It will show you how to eat well and be healthy without giving up the foods you love! What have you got to lose, except some unhealthy habits!
Remember, healthy choice each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?