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Health and Disease

Do Vitamin Supplements Work?

Vitamin supplements are advertised as essential for our health. These supplements have become extremely common over the years, and many people take supplements daily. Unfortunately, there are many false claims surrounding vitamin supplements as well.

Introduction

Vitamin supplements are marketed to us as essential to our health. Many claim vitamin supplements make up for an unhealthy diet, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and improve your overall well-being. Some people have even said that taking vitamin supplements can prolong your life by a few years. The large number of vitamin supplements bought and sold, and because they are available everywhere, shows the influence of these claims on consumers. Do these miraculous pills actually work, or do health companies just want your money?

What are vitamin supplements?

Vitamin supplements contain various vitamins and minerals in addition to other ingredients. These supplements are available in numerous forms ranging from tablets, capsules and gummies to liquids and powders. Some common vitamin supplements include multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin B/ B complex. These can be easily found in any pharmacy, supermarkets, and through online websites. There are sixteen minerals and thirteen vitamins that a human body needs to survive. In vitamin supplements, these vitamins and minerals are derived naturally from foods or created synthetically in laboratories. Unfortunately, multivitamins are not regulated, and therefore the labels may not properly list the correct amount of nutrients you are receiving or may not even list the entire amount of nutrients. In addition to vitamins and minerals, multivitamins may contain spices, amino acids and fatty acids—though the quantity and number of nutrients may vary. It is important to remember that deception in labeling is widespread.

History of vitamin supplements

The use of vitamin supplements can be traced back all the way to the middle ages. In the middle ages, many sailors would suffer from a disease called scurvy. The cause of scurvy was related to the sailors’ diets. A discovery found that if the sailors ate oranges they did not have the disease. Now, we know that the vitamin C in oranges prevented scurvy in sailors. Since then, many advancements have been made and the necessity for vitamins and minerals has become clear. It is also clear that some people lack certain vitamins due to their diet and need alternate sources. In the United States, there was a large program to fortify milk and cereal with vitamin D, since there are limited sources of this vitamin. Large companies started to get involved and make multivitamins to be taken daily. A very popular brand is the Flintstone gummy vitamin, which is taken by millions of kids every morning. 

Do they work?

Some findings indicate that multivitamins are associated with decreased risk in heart disease, while others display no effects. Since heart disease is one of the leading killers, it would be a substantial breakthrough if vitamin supplements could reduce risk of heart disease. Another claim brought forth is that vitamin supplements reduce the risk of cancer. However, after lengthy trials the results were inconclusive. Some reports relate multivitamin use to a decreased risk in cancer, while others found little benefit—and some even say it produces an elevated risk. Taking supplements does have some benefits. Several studies have shown that multivitamins can enhance memory in older adults.These supplements can boost the mood. Analysis shows connections not only between bad mood and nutritional shortages, but also between them and improved mood or decreased symptoms of depression. In summary, vitamin supplements can boost memory and mood. In addition, antioxidant vitamins and minerals can help to delay the development of diseases that cause blindness. 

Can they be bad?

In short, yes they can be negative in some cases. While high doses of some vitamins and minerals are good, high levels of others can be harmful.To determine the dosage we can look at the indicator of solubility. There are water-soluble vitamins, which your body is able to clean away any excess amounts of. There are also fat-soluble vitamins. Your body does not have a way to reduce these vitamins, so it is unsafe to take large doses of this vitamin. Consequently, some of the most popularly taken vitamin supplements are fat-soluble such as vitamins, D, A, E, and K. Excess amounts of vitamin A are said to cause birth defects in children. One thing to note, is that it is quite easy to exceed the required level for a vitamin through a combination of diet and vitamin supplements. Another risk is defective production, which can allow multivitamins to produce even greater quantities of nutrients than expected. In conclusion, supplementation of heavy concentrations of certain nutrients can have adverse effects. 

Conclusion

While vitamin supplements can provide the necessary vitamins, the best option is to have a healthy, rich diet that can provide all the necessary vitamins. However, If you have a vitamin deficiency, it is better to replace the particular nutrient. Some groups of people that should consider taking vitamins are older people, pregnant women, vegans, vegetarians, and people with certain diseases. If you are not part of those groups and don’t have a horrible deficiency, it is better to consult a doctor before taking any vitamin supplements. In the long run, choosing to eat a nutrient rich diet of natural food will always be better than any supplement. 

Harshal Chinthala, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

Do Multivitamins Work? The Surprising Truth – Healthline. http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/do-multivitamins-work. 

Wiginton, Keri. “How to Pick the Right Supplements for You.” WebMD, WebMD, 12 Mar. 2020, http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/what-vitamin-should-i-take#1. 

By Harshal Chinthala

Harshal Chinthala is student in Kansas City. He is interested in the fields of neurology and cardiology.

One reply on “Do Vitamin Supplements Work?”

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