Vitamins, helpful or harmful?

May 12, 2010 9:47:54 AM PDT
Celebrities tout the benefits. Doctors say, maybe. Do supplements really work? A 2008 study found no evidence that they prolonged life, yet today, it's a nearly a $15 billion dollar industry. Here is more on the pros and cons of supplementing your diet.

Whether it's celebrity hype...

"That usually creates a buzz, and people want to come in and get the newest and the latest," Keith Mercer, a vitamin consultant at Essential Health in Altamonte Springs, FL, told Ivanhoe.

Or is it valid science. We're crazy about supplements. Over a third of Americans take a vitamin or mineral supplement every day. But does it work?

"A supplement, by definition, means in addition to, not instead of." Susan Hewlings, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor at the University of Central Florida, College of Medicine, in Orlando, FL, said. "There's sort of a myth surrounding supplements that they're benign and that they're healthy for us,"

Mega-dosing on fat-soluble vitamins like A, K, E and D -- can be dangerous, leading to bone and liver damage.

"There may be plenty of people in our population that would benefit from a vitamin D supplement. That's not to say mega-dosing on vitamin D is a good idea," Hewlings said.

What about multivitamins?

"A multivitamin is a way to cover your bases," Hewlings said.

Other experts disagree. One recent national women's study found taking multivitamins did nothing to reduce the rate of major diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke. Believers say the evidence is in how they feel. Until everyone agrees, experts say do your research.

"Consumer beware. Right now, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. You want to see the data, and you want to see the numbers," Hewlings warned.

Data may be drawing the line between science and supplement.

To keep up with the adverse events linked to supplements, check the FDA's website for claims at www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch.


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