These days, it seems to be a common belief that everyone needs vitamin supplements if they wish to remain healthy. They are flogged on television at every commercial break, and many brands are sponsors for a wide range of high profile events. Multi vitamins have become synonymous with the word ‘healthy’, and every second person feels the need to pop vitamin C in order to prevent getting sick. But are these vitamin pills really necessary, or are they simply a clever marketing ploy?
While the benefits of vitamins are undeniable, the impact of them in supplement form is less than convincing. There are studies that suggest that taking supplements really doesn’t do all that much. It is thought that while the body absorbs these pills, it can’t actually use them effectively due to the fact that they are presented in synthetic form.
That is, they simply aren’t in a structure naturally utilised by the body. What this means is that all those expensive vitamin supplements you have been buying are simply passing out of your body, leaving behind little positive impact.
Many scientists agree that vitamins and minerals are best absorbed from fresh food sources. In these cases, the vitamins are in a natural structure that the body can easily make use of. While many people believe it is hard to get the correct amount of nutrients from food alone, this is generally untrue. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet you will easily reach the recommended dietary intake levels of all the important vitamins. In addition, there are many other benefits to be gained from eating actual healthy food – benefits that are missed out on if supplements are taken instead.
There is also evidence to suggest that supplement consumption can actually go beyond having null effect – it can actually have a negative impact in some cases. A prime example is that of people who take calcium tablets. For calcium to enter your bones, it needs to be attached to phosphate molecules.
When you take a calcium supplement, your body may need to actually take phosphate out of your bones in order to make the calcium pill effective – therefore leaving your bones worse off than they were beforehand. It is also a myth that all unused vitamins are simply passed out in urine. For some this is the case, but fat soluble vitamins can actually accumulate to dangerous levels. One such example of a fat soluble vitamin is vitamin D – a supplement many people take in order to compensate for lack of sunlight.
Of course, vitamin supplements are not all doom and gloom – some do have their place. If you have tested low to vitamin D, supplements are needed to bring your body back up to the correct level. In a similar vein, iron tablets can be very helpful for those who may be lacking – especially women, and vegetarians who may not receive enough iron in their diet.
The key is to use vitamin supplements when needed, to supplement a balanced diet – not to replace it. Popping multi vitamin pills left right and centre will not save you, it will only work to keep Swiss in business. Grab a glass of milk and an orange instead.