Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Is One-A-Day One Too Many?

By Leane Scoz

"Train, say your prayers, and eat your vitamins."--Hulk Hogan

If vitamins are good enough for the Hulkster, they should be good enough for all of us. And, most Americans agree. Vitamin supplements are a multi-billion industry. With over a third of American adults consuming them on a regular basis, the risks and benefits should be well known.

However, recent reports reveal insufficient evidence to support the beneficial effects of multivitamins. In fact, an NIH panel review and Mayo Clinic article both report beta-carotene supplements actually increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Also, a Harvard Men's Health Watch suggests that high doses of multivitamins may raise prostate cancer risk. The study had limitations since it was not originally designed to support this assessment, however, it does raise the question on whether or not our daily "helpers" are really doing their jobs or causing us more harm than good.

The NIH and the Mayo Clinic articles suggest another negative aspect for multivitamins is that the products are not strictly regulated, which implies that the labels may not exactly include everything contained in the bottles. However, both agree that studies do exist to support the use of folic acid supplements for pregnant women to prevent neural tube birth defects, calcium and vitamin D supplements to protect the bones of postmenopausal women, and antioxidants and zinc supplements to slow the worsening of age-related macular degeneration.

Most Americans assume multivitamins are safe and effective since they are readily available on store shelves and marketed heavily in the media. And why shouldn't we feel this way? Vitamins are found in nature in the foods we eat everyday. Vitamin supplements make us feel healthier and believe we will prevent chronic diseases, colds, and flu. We are taught that vitamin deficiencies can be extremely dangerous and hazardous to our health. We do not think that too much of certain nutrients can be harmful.

As always, people need to make an educated decision when it comes to multivitamin use. They need to carefully assess their health, consult their physician, and weigh out the possible benefits and risks before determining if a multivitamin is right for them. Maybe, Hulk needs to amend his slogan to say, "...consider eating your vitamins."

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