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How to Take Vitamins and Minerals Correctly?

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  • How to Take Vitamins and Minerals Correctly?

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    Scientists do not recommend taking synthetic vitamins for healthy people. In this article, we will introduce you to the recommendations of scientists on how to take vitamins correctly and to whom they can be recommended.

    The idea of taking additional vitamins looks quite logical and justified: everyone knows that vitamins and minerals are useful and vital, and their deficiency is dangerous for health. Why not take a good multivitamin supplement for safety's sake?

    Millions of people think this way. In the United States, according to statistics, about half of the entire population takes vitamins, and the most popular are multivitamins.


    Pharmacology is an incredibly lucrative industry, especially when half of the world's population is consumers of any one product group. All that is required is to convince that a little more useful substances will not harm your health in any way, but only improve it.


    But scientific research confirms that if you do not have a serious deficiency of any trace elements, an additional intake of them will not give any health benefits. Moreover, regular use of megadoses of any trace elements can cause harm to health.

    Healthy people who have enough whole natural products in their diet do not have a real need in taking synthetic vitamins in tablets.

    In this article, we will talk about vulnerable categories of people who have a high risk of micronutrient deficiency, who may be recommended additional intake, give some recommendations about buying and using, and touch on compatibility issues.






    When and to whom is an additional intake of synthetic vitamins and minerals (complexes) recommended?

    The U.S. Department of agriculture identifies the following categories of people who can be recommended additional intake of pharmacy vitamins and minerals[*]:
    • adults over 50 years of age - it is recommended to take additional vitamin B12 or food enriched with it;
    • elderly people, as well as those who rarely go out in the sun - it is recommended to take additional vitamin D or food enriched with it ;
    • pregnant women or those who are planning a pregnancy - it is recommended to take additional folic acid (vitamin B9) or food enriched with it. This will reduce the risk of having a premature baby and developing birth defects.

    Also, additional intake of synthetic vitamins may be recommended if:
    • you eat less than 1,600 calories a day;
    • you are vegan or vegetarian and do not eat well enough;
    • you eat less than 2-3 servings of fish a week. In this case, add fish oil to the diet.
    • you are a woman with heavy bleeding during your period;
    • you have diseases that affect your body's ability to absorb certain nutrients: diarrhea, food allergies, intolerance to certain foods, diseases of the liver, pancreas, intestines, or gallbladder;
    • you have had operations on your digestive tract that have resulted in an inability to digest or assimilate certain nutrients

    Remember that even in these or any other critical cases, the question of prescribing additional intake of vitamins or trace element complexes is the task of your doctor or dietitian: consult with him/her about what vitamins and how to take them correctly.





    Top 5 vitamins that can cause serious health harm if taken incorrectly


    Myth # 1 Vitamin C


    This is probably the most popular vitamin, which is considered harmless and recommended by almost every doctor for both adults and children.

    It is known that in ancient times, sailors often died of scurvy, which was caused by a lack of vitamin C in the body. Around the 1700s, the Scottish doctor James Lind famously showed that citrus juice cures scurvy 4. At that time, vitamin C was still unknown; it was only discovered in the 1930s.

    Its popularity today, this vitamin owes much to the now recognized erroneous point of view of Linus Pauling, who in his book recommended in the 1970s to take mega-doses of this vitamin to prevent colds. Pauling was a very talented chemist (even a Nobel prize winner), but today it is proved that he was mistaken.

    The largest scientific review of research on this issue in the last 50 years states:

    "...no effect.. makes question the appropriateness of the practice of taking vitamin C.”

    Although vitamin C is generally relatively safe, its megadoses (2000 mg or more) may increase the risk of kidney stones, known for their excruciating pain.





    Myth # 2 Vitamin A and beta-carotene


    Vitamins A, C, and E are well-known antioxidants that are advertised as cancer-fighting agents.

    Scientific research DOES not support this.

    In a large-scale study supported by the US National Cancer Institute, smokers who took vitamin A were more likely to develop tongue cancer than those who did not take.


    Vitamin A is extremely important for vision, but if taken in very high doses, it can lead to serious side effects.


    The most famous fact of the toxicity of this vitamin is the case of poisoning of polar explorers who ate the liver of their sled dogs, which is very high in vitamin A. Antarctic Researcher Douglas Mawson barely survived, and his partners died, presumably from vitamin A poisoning.

    Vitamin A is advertised as an antioxidant with anti-cancer effects. Scientific studies do not confirm this, but on the contrary, they indicate an increase in the risk of developing cancer when taking it





    Myth # 3 Vitamin E

    Vitamin E is also a well-known "anti-cancer" agent and a popular dietary supplement.

    A large scientific study of more than 35,000 men that examined the effect of vitamin E on the risk of prostate cancer found that the risk of cancer did not decrease, but increased when taking this vitamin.


    In another major scientific study conducted at Johns Hopkins University, those who took vitamin E had a significantly higher risk of premature death.



    "Scientific evidence suggests that regularly taking large doses of vitamin E can increase the risk of death from any cause.”

    Even though vitamin E is considered an antioxidant with anti-cancer effects, scientific research suggests that taking it not only does not reduce the risk of cancer but increases it, as well as the risk of premature death





    Myth # 4 Vitamin B6

    Vitamin B6 and B12 are found in many foods, and their deficiency is very rare.

    Taking extra vitamin B6 over time can be dangerous for your health. Here is how it is stated on the website of the US National Institutes of Health:

    "People almost never get too much vitamin B6 from food. But taking high levels of vitamin B6 from supplements for a year or longer can cause severe nerve damage, leading people to lose control of their bodily movements.”


    Excessive long-term intake of vitamin B6 in the form of supplements can lead to damage to nerve cells





    Myth # 5 Multivitamins


    Multivitamins - this is the most serious problem in the issue of improper intake of vitamins.

    As we have already noted, approximately 40% of Americans take them regularly.


    A large-scale study of more than 38,000 women who were followed for more than 25 years found that supplementation with multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper does not reduce, but increases, the risk of death.


    According to scientists, taking one or more of the listed microelements does not give, gives very little benefits, and may even cause harm to health.

    Taking multivitamins does not reduce, but increases the risk of death






    Scientists' recommendations on how to take vitamins and minerals correctly


    If you still decide to take pharmacy vitamins or complexes of vitamins and minerals, then take into account the following tips:
    • Read the instructions for use carefully. There you will find a list of active ingredients and trace elements in the composition, information about the dosage (capsules, bags, teaspoons), as well as the number of trace elements in each dose.
    • Beware of megadoses. It is best to choose those complex vitamins that provide about 100% of the daily requirement. Beware of those complexes that contain 500% of the daily requirement of one of the vitamins or minerals and 20% of the other.
    • Check the expiration date. Synthetic vitamins can lose their quality over time, especially in hot or humid climates. If the label does not indicate the expiration date, do not buy. Do not use expired vitamin supplements.
    • Study the labels of the foods you buy and eat. Nowadays, more and more products are enriched in the production of vitamins and minerals. If you take any synthetic vitamins or multivitamin complexes, then when using such products, you risk overdosing on one or another trace element, with the resulting side effects. An overdose of iron, for example, can lead to nausea, vomiting, damage to the liver, and other organs.
    • Make sure that the USP label is present. This marking ensures that you are actually buying what is indicated on the label.
    • Always take vitamins with food. Vitamins and minerals are much more effectively absorbed if taken with food.


    The compatibility problem is not typical for multivitamin complexes, since the amounts of minerals and vitamins in them are usually not very high, and do not exceed 250 mg for the main minerals calcium and magnesium.

    When taking such complexes, do not forget to take into account the trace elements that come with food and other sports supplements to avoid overdose.




    Large doses of any one mineral tend to reduce the body's ability to absorb other minerals

    A mineral that is very often consumed in large quantities is calcium. Its dose usually reaches several hundred milligrams, while the doses of other minerals - a few milligrams or even micrograms (1 milligram = 1000 micrograms).

    Therefore, if you take calcium as a dietary supplement, it is better to do it separately from other minerals or vitamin-mineral complexes (at other times of the day).


    Doses of magnesium in our diet can reach quite high values; it is also better to use it separately from other minerals.


    If you take large doses of zinc for a long time (50 mg or more per day for more than 10 weeks), keep in mind that this can lead to a copper deficiency, so you will most likely have to take this mineral additionally.




    Some vitamins may help to better absorb other trace elements

    For example, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron, regardless of its form (natural or synthetic).



    Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are obviously better absorbed with foods that contain fat

    Evidence (mostly from animal studies) suggests that moderate to high doses of any fat-soluble vitamins interfere with the absorption of other fat-soluble vitamins - from 10 to 50%-due to competition between them.

    Notably, one study showed that taking vitamin D at lunch instead of breakfast would increase your blood levels by about 50%.


    The absorption of vitamin K is particularly dependent on the presence of other fat-soluble vitamins, but the absorption of vitamin A is almost impossible, but, on the contrary, it is better absorbed in combination with vitamin E.


    To improve absorption, it is best to take vitamins D, E, and K a few hours before or after other fat-soluble vitamins.




    Eating certain trace elements with food can reduce various unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects

    For example, taking magnesium reduces the likelihood of diarrhea, and iron reduces stomach upset.



    Vitamins and minerals can also affect the absorption and effectiveness of medications




    Let's sum up
    • Scientists recommend taking certain types of vitamins and minerals for the elderly, those who rarely go out in the sun, pregnant women, vegans, and vegetarians, as well as those whose diet is defective
    • Vitamin C does not prevent or treat colds. In megadoses (more than 2000 mg) can lead to the formation of kidney stones
    • Vitamin A is advertised as an antioxidant with anti-cancer effects. Scientific studies do not confirm this, but on the contrary, they indicate an increase in the risk of developing cancer when taking it
    • Excessive long-term intake of vitamin B6 in the form of supplements can lead to damage to nerve cells
    • Taking multivitamins does not reduce, but increases the risk of death
    • Give preference to multivitamins, the dose of vitamins and minerals in which does not exceed 100% of the daily norm
    • If you take any additional vitamins or minerals, pay attention to the composition of the products that you use, since nowadays many of them are enriched with trace elements during production
    • Always take synthetic vitamins/minerals with food
    • High doses of any one mineral tend to reduce the body's ability to absorb other minerals
    • Some vitamins may help to better absorb other trace elements (for example, vitamin C improves iron absorption)
    • Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are obviously better absorbed with foods that contain fat
    • The use of certain trace elements with food can reduce various unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects (magnesium - diarrhea, iron-upset stomach)
    • Vitamins and minerals can also affect the absorption and effectiveness of medications



    Our goal is to get to the bottom of the truth.


    So how to take vitamins correctly? Don't take them at all?

    Treat them like any other medications: use only on the recommendation of a doctor, with caution.


    Be healthy!




    * U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015, December). 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition
    Last edited by Ken Bohn; 10-16-2020, 02:25 PM.

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