A Fact Based Review of Vitamins

Are vitamins worth the money?

Research indicates that most multivitamins simply aren’t worth spending on

We all need to ingest the correct amount and number of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Our body relies on vitamins like Vitamin A for healthy teeth and bones, and Vitamin D to absorb calcium. While vitamins are critically important to our wellbeing, multivitamins simply may not be necessary.

In an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, scientists concluded that vitamin supplements simply aren’t necessary for those eating well-balanced diets in the Western world. To make matters worse, the editorial reminds us that too much of some supplements, such as “beta-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly […] Vitamin A” may be linked to increases in the risk of death. 

But aren’t vitamins good for us?

Vitamins are critically important for our wellbeing, and we would be at risk to a number of diseases if we lacked them. In fact, insufficient vitamin intake can weaken physical and mental function, reduce your immune system’s ability to fight disease, and lead to weaker bones. A lack of vitamin C for example, can lead to scurvy.

We need vitamins for all of our bodily functions, but not in excess. If you’re able to eat a healthy, balanced, diet rich in fruits and vegetables, then it’s more likely than not that you’re receiving enough vitamins to stay healthy. In the event that you’re unable to get your vitamins through your diet, then it may be worth considering spending on often costly multivitamins.

Vitamins may be overhyped

Vitamins have been claimed to prevent heart disease and cancer. Both are top causes of death in the Western world, so it’s clear why people would opt to take a vitamin as a cure-all for these diseases. However, growing evidence shows that the original research suggesting these preventative effects are overblown.

Most recently, a group of experts were assembled by the government as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to investigate claims like these. They did not find significant evidence to support the link between multivitamin use and preventing cancer or heart disease. Vitamins may have antioxidant effects, which can fight inflammation and DNA damage. However, this finding is controversial, and does not appear to be strong enough to indicate a significant preventative ability of vitamins and minerals in heart disease in cancer. To make matters worse, high levels of beta-carotene actually showed an increase risk of tumor development in those already predisposed to lung cancer. Clearly, there can be too much of a good thing.

Overall, vitamins are critically necessary – in moderate amounts. We are fortunate enough to be well-nourished and receive enough vitamins and minerals from our diets, making expensive vitamins unnecessary for most of us. In fact, using multivitamins in excess may not prevent chronic disease and may even exacerbate them.