Take Your Vitamins, Or Don’t: Study Shows It May Not Matter

Take Your Vitamins, Or Don\’t: Study Shows It May Not Matter

By Victoria Bekiempis / November 12 2013 3:45 PM

A new report says nutritional supplements probably don’t reduce the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease.   Mario Tama/Getty

Talk about a bitter pill: Vitamins might not do anything to prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease. According to a new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that single or paired-nutrient supplements curtail the development of those maladies.

“The [task force] found inadequate evidence on the benefits of supplementation with individual vitamins, minerals, or functional pairs in healthy populations without nutritional deficiencies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer,” the draft recommendation states. (The evidence supporting this report was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.)

Dr. Michael LeFevre, panel co-chair and medicine professor at University of Missouri, tells Newsweek: “There are a lot of people out there who are taking either individual supplements or multivitamins in hopes that they will prevent cancer and heart disease.… We cannot conclude that you can take a pill and do the same thing as eating well accomplishes.”

He adds that vitamin E doesn’t to prevent either condition and that the beta carotene “may actually be harmful.” The report notes that “supplementation with beta carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in persons who are at increased risk of lung cancer.” The comprehensive study updates the task force’s 2003 recommendations, which are meant to be used as treatment guidelines for primary care physicians.

This might come as bad news to the 50 percent of American adults who take vitamins and minerals and reportedly spend $28.1 billion annually on supplements. Though most of the medical establishment has long been skeptical of the alleged special powers of supplements, many Americans believe some vitamins and minerals have curative or preventive properties. And though supplement companies are careful to never say directly say their products will cure or prevent diseases, product marketing often hints at these properties, such as GNC’s “Preventive Nutrition” line.

Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has written extensive critiques of supplements and alternative medicine. He tells Newsweek that “most people get what they need in the foods that they eat.”

Offit hopes this report will encourage consumers to think twice before downing doses of these items – the same way they would seek a second opinion before consenting to surgery. “You should really question whether you should be taking a supplement,” he said. “Why aren’t we as suspicious of this industry as we are of conventional medicine? Just bring the same level of skepticism to one as the other.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group, says in a statement that “the paucity of clinical trial evidence should not be misinterpreted as a lack of benefit for the multivitamin.”

The Council calls for a holistic approach, saying “nutrients work in synergy with other nutrients… We should consider vitamins a piece of the health puzzle, not magic bullets that are the be-all and end-all for preventing serious diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. If there are benefits for vitamins for cancer and cardiovascular disease, those benefits are icing on the cake.”

LeFevre suggests that anyone interested in proven preventive nutrition skip both the icing and the cake. “My mother was probably right when she told me to eat my vegetables,” he says.

via Take Your Vitamins, Or Don’t: Study Shows It May Not Matter.


Most People Can Skip Calcium Supplements, Prevention Panel Says : Shots – Health News : NPR

Most People Can Skip Calcium Supplements, Prevention Panel Says


Women have been told for years that if they don’t take calcium supplements religiously, they’re putting themselves at risk of crippling hip fractures in old age.

Now the word from a major government panel: Why bother?

There’s no evidence that taking calcium supplements reduces the risk of fractures for most people, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said. The recommendations were published online Monday by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

That applies to postmenopausal women, the target audience for calcium supplements.

“We’re not saying don’t use it,” says Linda Baumann, a member of the task force and a professor emerita of nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But think about it, because we’re not sure it has the benefit you think it has.”

The task force said that taking up to 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium supplements and up to 400 international units of vitamin D daily did nothing to prevent fractures in healthy people, while slightly increasing the risk of kidney stones.

That’s just a bit less than the 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day recommended for postmenopausal women by a 2011 Institute of Medicine report. More might be better, the USPSTF panel concluded, but there’s no evidence that’s true. The panel gives independent recommendations to the federal government on the risks and benefits of treatments.

Reports like this always come with caveats, so here goes: The recommendations don’t apply to people who already have osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency. And the advice doesn’t apply to people over 65 who are at risk of falls.

The task force members would have loved to review data on whether taking calcium and vitamin D supplements earlier in life would be useful, Baumann tells Shots. Teenagers’ calcium intake is pathetically low, even though they’re still growing.

“The other thing that’s really unclear is the appropriate dose and dosing regimen,” Baumann says. The studies the panel relied on were all over the map on how much people took — and when. And because most studies have looked at calcium and bone health in white women, there’s no good data on men or minority groups.

Vitamin D supplements have become trendy of late, promoted as preventing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Some doctors recommending up to 50,000 IU in a week.The USPSTF is looking at whether D influences cancer, so stay tuned for that.

An accompanying editorial concludes, “While we wait for the results of further research, the USPSTF’s cautious, evidence-based advice should encourage clinicians to think carefully before advising calcium and vitamin D supplementation for healthy individuals.”

Calcium supplements aren’t as trendy, but some women are “taking three, four, five calcium pills a day,” says Cliff Rosen, an author of the 2011 IOM report, and an osteoporosis researcher at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute. Taking that much can up the risk of kidney stones by 17 percent, he says. And there’s also evidence that calcium supplements may contribute to heart disease.

The calcium in food doesn’t seem to cause those problems, Rosen says. So the best advice for everyone, from teens to their grandmas, is get calcium from food. “A glass of milk is 300 milligrams. Three glasses of milk a day, and you get there without a problem.”

And if that doesn’t grab you, there’s another option, Rosen says: “Of course, ice cream has calcium in it.”

via Most People Can Skip Calcium Supplements, Prevention Panel Says : Shots – Health News : NPR.

Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce: NyTimes

I thought this was interesting. I bolded things I thought were good highlights. Thoughts I have – what’s an “acceptable level” of pesticide? I’d prefer none. Also what vegetables did they use in the study? Some more easily absorb pesticides. I’d love to know what they found as their worse. It also doesn’t address the fact that organic add ins to are a more sustainable way to enrich the soil that doesn’t have as many negative consequences on our environment.

Does an organic strawberry contain more vitamin C than a conventional one?
Maybe — or maybe not.

Stanford University scientists have weighed in on the “maybe not” side of the debate after an extensive examination of four decades of research comparing organic and conventional foods.

They concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive. Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli.

Continue reading

Kale Recipes: 5 Ways to Make Kale Less Boring | Women’s Health Food Blog: Get easy recipes, healthy food swaps, and cooking products

I thought today’s article from Women’s health was funny as last night I tried to give my husband a baby kale salad and he picked at the cucumbers from it and tossed the kale. I don’t mind the taste, but here are some recipes for those who do!

Kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. The leafy green is very low in calories (36 calories per cup) and is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K. It’s also a good source of fiber and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron.

Problem is, kale isn’t the sexiest veggie in town. If you’re like me, you routinely toss a bunch of it into your grocery basket, but don’t quite know what to do with it once you’re home. Because of its bitter taste and a texture that requires a learned appreciation, kale’s not first on my list of go-to salad ingredients. Luckily, there are countless (meat-free!) ways to doctor up this good-for-you green. Try these five kale recipes and learn how to incorporate it into your next breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack.

Healthy High C Smoothie Kale for breakfast? You bet. With a powerful blender and sweet ingredients like kiwis and orange juice, you won’t notice kale’s taste or texture, but you’ll still reap all the nutritional benefits.

Cheese and Kale Quesadillas Put a healthy spin on a typically bad-for-you dish opting for whole-wheat tortillas, a small amount of feta cheese, and kale.

Kale and Lentil Salad With so much flavor from ingredients like bell peppers, tomatoes, and sunflower seeds, this salad doesn’t even need dressing. Try it with some chopped seasonal fruits such as apples, grapes, strawberries, or blueberries.

Creamy Potato, Kale, and Leek Soup Use late summer and early fall to perfect the hearty soup recipes you’ll enjoy all winter long.

Roasted Kale Chips Health food disguised as junk food? We’ll take it. Try this brilliant snack idea from chef Tyler Florence.

via Kale Recipes: 5 Ways to Make Kale Less Boring | Women’s Health Food Blog: Get easy recipes, healthy food swaps, and cooking products.

Some basics on Vitamin A…

Moving into the fat soluble vitamins which are A, D, E and K. They differ in many ways, but the most important is that because they are stored in our liver and fat tissue our bodies will pull from storage if we don’t get them any given day. The negative to this is that because they are stored the risk of toxicity is greater than water-soluble vitamins and also you can go sometimes years without knowing you have a deficit.

There are three forms of vitamin A – retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. Beta carotein is a precursor to vitamin A.

Its major roles in the body are: vision (maintains your cornea); protein synthesis and cell differentiation (helps maintain your epithelial tissues which include things like your skin and GI tract and glands. Epithelial tissues are on all body surfaces – inside and out) and supports reproduction and bone and tooth growth.

Some deficiency symptoms are night blindness, corneal drying and a host of other cornea problems until blindness; and impaired immunity.

Toxicity can lead to reduced bone density, liver abnormalities and birth defects.

Sources: fortified milk and milk products, eggs, liver, dark leafy greens, vegetables (squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin), deep orange fruits (cantaloupe, apricots)

Daily Vitamins – don’t over do it – Women’s Health Magazine

Daily Vitamins: Don’t Overload Your System

Dietary supplements are easy to overdo, make sure you know the proper dosage

At the rate vitamins and minerals are being added to food, it won’t be long until fortified Jelly Bellys hit the market—oh wait, they already have. The National Institutes of Health warns of the dangers of too many vitamins. “Quite a few people who take a multivitamin and eat a healthy diet are getting twice what they need,” says Diane Birt, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on Botanical Dietary Supplements at Iowa State University. And that can be dangerous.

Here are five nutrients people often get too much of. Check out the dosage you’re getting from the fortified foods you eat and the vitamins you take and make sure your intake falls within the recommended range for dietary supplements<.


RDA 1,000 mg

Top Limit 2,500 mg

The risk Watch out for calcium-fortified Tums or calcium-fortified chocolates. Too much calcium can lead to kidney stones, calcium deposits in your arteries, and, ironically, weakened bones. That’s because an excess of calcium prevents absorption of other nutrients necessary for bone health, such as magnesium, says Mark Woodin, Sc.D., professor of epidemiology and environmental health at Tufts University in Boston.


Recommended daily amount (RDA) not established

Top Limit not established

The risk Smokers (and inhalers of secondhand smoke) beware: When beta-carotene taken in supplement form mixes with cigarette smoke, it changes from an antioxidant that wards off cancer to a harmful pro-oxidant that ups the risk of lung cancer. Get the nutrient through foods like carrots and sweet potatoes rather than pills.


RDA 18 mg

Top Limit 45 mg

The risk Studies show that high blood levels of iron (found in meats, spinach, lentils, and soybeans) may be a risk factor for heart disease. Iron also competes with important minerals like copper for absorption in the body, says Roberta Anding, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Vitamin A

RDA 700 mcg

Top Limit 3,000 mcg

The risk Too much vitamin A can cause liver problems, diminished bone density, and birth defects, says Martha Belury, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at The Ohio State University. Since you get the vitamin A you need through foods like milk, eggs, carrots, and peppers, a supplement isn’t necessary.


RDA 8 mg

Top Limit 40 mg

The risk An overdose of zinc can lead to upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle spasms. It isn’t hard to max out when some lozenges for cold relief deliver between 46 and 50 milligrams a day, according to ConsumerLab, an independent firm that verifies commercial claims.

via Nutritional Supplements: Dietary Supplement Guidelines | Women’s Health Magazine.

Some basics: on vitamin C


  • as an antioxidant. It loses electrons which are taken up by free radicals and stabilizes them. (which can lower your risk of cancer)
  • Helps in iron absorption
  • helps in collagen production – which most of us know is in our skin, but it’s also a structure in your teeth and bones that calcium and other minerals lay on top of.
  • During times of stress on the body – infection, injury, your boss breathing down your neck and spiking your cortisol – your immune cells use more oxygen, which produces free radicals to demolish offending viruses and bacteria. Vitamin C helps neutralize extra free radicals, so you do need more during these times.


  • 200 mg at a time. The rest is flushed out.
  • Sources: fruits and veggies but especially dark green veggies (bell peppers, kale and broccoli), strawberries and citrus, pineapple

Fun (gross) fact – scurvy, which occured to many sailors onboard for long periods of time, was due to the lack of Vitamin C. Ships would run out of fresh fruit and vegetables in the beginning of the journey. The reason one of the symtoms was tooth loss was that the collagen would break down in their teeth. Aar!

Some basics on Vitamin B

I thought it’d be nice to post a bit about some commonly discussed vitamins. Let’s start with Vitamin B!

First about water soluble vitamins – (this sited from my “understanding nutriton” book by Whitney)

  • Absorption: Directly into the blood
  • Transport: Travel freely
  • Storage: kidneys detect and remove excess in urine
  • toxicity: possible to reach toxic levels when consumed from supplements
  • Requirements: They are needed in frequent doses (some every 1 to 3 days)

There are many different B vitamins: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, B6, Folate, and B12.

B vitamins don’t directly GIVE energy, despite how they’re frequently marketed – they are part of what forms coenzymes which assist  enzymes. These together release energy from carbs, proteins and fats. An enzyme aids and catalyzes (speeds up) chemical reactions. The coenzyme is kind of a little piece that snaps into the enzyme. All enzymes are proteins and have different shapes to attach to different substances. Without the coenzyme the enzyme wouldn’t be the right shape to attach to whatever it’s supposed to attach to. If you think enzymes are interesting here’s more about them. 

Thiamin (B1):

  • Sources: whole grain, fortified or enriched grains; pork
  • Functions: a coenzyme used in energy metabolism
  • Easily destroyed by heat

Riboflavin (B2):

  • Sources: milk products; whole grain, fortified or enriched grains; liver
  • Functions: Part of coenzymes used in energy metabolism
  • Easily destroyed by UV light and irradiation (which is why milk is stored in cardboard which is opaque)

Niacin (B3):

  • Sources: Milk; eggs; meat/poultry/fish; whole grains; nuts; all foods containing protein
  • Functions: coenzymes in energy metabolism


  • Sources: widespread in foods; liver, eggs yolks, soybeans, fish, whole grains. Also your GI bacteria produces a bit
  • Functions: coenzyme used in energy metabolism, fat synthesis, amino acids metabolism

Pantothenic Acid:

  • Sources: widespread: Chicken, beef, potatoes, oats, tomatoes, liver, egg yolk, broccoli, whole grains
  • Functions: part of coenzyme A which is used in energy metabolism
  • Easily destroyed by food processing


  • Sources: meats, fish, poultry; starchy veggies/legumes; noncitrus fruits; liver; soy
  • Functions: coenzymes used in amino acid and fatty acid metabolism; helps make red blood cells and serotonin
  • Easily destroyed by heat


  • Sources: Fortified grains, leafy green veggies, legumes, seeds, liver
  • Part of coenzymes used in DNA synthesis (apart of new cell formation)
  • Easily destroyed by heat and oxygen

Vitamin B12:

  • Sources: foods of animal origin, fortified cereals
  • part of coenzymes used in new cell synthesis; helps to maintain nerve cells; helps break down some fatty and amino acids

To supplement or not to supplement?


I just had a really great question. Here’s my answer:

So far all of my classes have emphasized the importance of getting your vitamins and minerals from foods. Some of the effects of overdose from vitamins are just as bad as not getting enough. When you juggle various supplements it’s much easier to risk toxicity, which is virtually impossible with real food.

Also the vitamins and minerals from foods are much more bioavailable. Have you ever looked at your pee after a vitamin B or multivitamin supplement? That’s a lot of the cost of your vitamin being flushed down the drain! Also there’s a lot of other goodness that comes from eating, for example, a peach than just the vitamin C. Eating a whole food like that gives you also fiber and phytonutrients – and potentially fills you up so you don’t reach for something more naughty.

All that being said though I do take a multivitamin and calcium everyday. A healthy diet is supposed to have a regular variety of all of the macronutrients. That’s all well and good but I think many of us have some easy go to foods we enjoy and we may not always be mixing it up or eating the most nutritious things. (I like to buy in bulk to save some $$, and that kind of hinders variability!)

One thing I learned recently, though, is that we can only absorb a certain amount of some nutrients at a time. One way that vitamin marketers make their products stick out is by offering the vitamin with more of a certain nutrient so you think you’re getting a better deal. For example, your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at once, but a lot of supplements come in 1000 mg. It’s best to either cut those in half or buy the smaller dosage. I do that with my calcium and multis.

For vitamins that we tend to have a deficiency in, like vitamin D, I think it’s important to get your levels checked yearly during your annual physical. I used to take a vitamin D supplement but have since found out my levels are perfectly normal with the foods I eat and the amount of sun exposure I get. My husband though takes the same supplement I used to and his levels are still too low, so he knows he can potentially go over the usual daily dose.

I guess the final answer is – there are pros and cons to both. If you’re the type of person that only eats fast food everyday, by all means – take a multi vitamin! Just try not to overdo it or mix too many supplements at once. (Also be very careful when supplementing the fat-soluble vitamins. Those don’t flush out like water soluble ones do and have a higher likelihood of toxicity.)

Thanks for the awesome question @joyonmyjourney! You can find some really awesome, healthy recipes on their page here – http://joyonmyjourney.com/