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Vitamins: To Take Or Not To Take

xhan's picture


We have all heard the common cliché that “too much of anything is bad for you”. We are aware that this statement holds true for something as seemingly arbitrary as consuming too many vitamins. After all vitamins in itself are essential for good health. They are responsible for regulating chemical reactions of metabolism. Without enough vitamins, individuals can experience health-related issues such as fatigue, dry skin, poor eyesight, higher cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, slow wound healing, sore gums, asthma and infertility. According to health expert Oliver Gille, “People get a lot of vitamins from food”. However, many of the foods we eat such as cake, cookies, bread, and other products with refined starches may deplete vitamins.
Ideally, individuals would refrain from consuming excessive amounts of processed foods such as cake, bread, and other products with refined starches, since the chemicals required to process and preserve these foods strip away essential vitamins and minerals. Instead, individuals would get their vitamins from consuming fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, dairy, and other wholesome foods.
However there are several limitations that prevent individuals from obtaining these foods. First of all, fresh fruit and vegetables may not be always be available locally. Secondly, individuals may not have the financial means to purchase these foods. Individuals may also have taste preferences that inhibit their vitamin intake. They may be allergic to certain vitamin-rich foods, and thus may need to take vitamin supplements to ensure that they are receiving enough nutrients from foods.  
            In these situations many individuals take a multivitamin, or some type of supplement in addition to their diet. Vitamins are crucial for normal metabolism, growth and development, and regulation of cell function. Vitamins such as antioxidants are substances that protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, E, and A, and other substances. Although antioxidants are supposed to rid the body of toxins, studies show many vitamin products contain lead, a harmful substance that can lead to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a medical condition caused by increased levels of the heavy metal lead in the blood. Lead interferes with the development of the nervous system and is particularly toxic to children, causing learning and behavior disorders that may be permanent, and can cause an increased risk of high blood pressure in adults.
According to Jacqueline Stenson, a reporter for MSNBC News, 21 brands of multivitamins on the market only met 10 stated claims on their labels or satisfied other quality standards. According to Stenson, The Vitamin Shoppe women’s product contained 15.3 micrograms of lead per daily serving of two tablets. While 1.3 micrograms of lead may not be immediately toxic, the mineral is stored in the body and could build up to dangerous levels over time. Since vitamins are taken daily, toxic levels can increase over time and lead to complications in the future.
Moreover, contrary to popular beliefs-that vitamins may reduce the risk of cancer- recent studies indicate that the opposite is true. Researcher Dr. Howard Sesso reports that Vitamins E and C have virtually no effect on cancer prevention after doing a research that involved over 15,0000 men. Moreover, according to a study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association, in which 200,000 patients were exposed to large doses of vitamin supplements such as beta carotene and Vitamins A, C, E, and Selenium, results showed that Vitamin A increased the risk of death by 16%, while large doses of Vitamin E and beta carotene increased the risk for death by 4%.
On the other hand, several of the most popular multivitamins on the market did pass. These include Centrum Silver, One A Day’s Women’s and Flintstones Complete. However, according to another source, Centrum vitamins, along with other brands such as GNC, and Puritan Pride are Synthetic vitamins. Synthetic vitamins are chemical activators, not vitamins. The Centrum vitamin pills are made from petroleum distillate, other wise known as Cold Tar. These are dead chemicals that will eventually damage your DNA, and thus shorten your life span. In addition, all pills contain magnesium stearate that is a trans fat, an immune suppressant that inhibits the absorption of nutrients into the body by 80%. Most of these vitamins also do not get digested. Centrum pills are fat-soluble vitamins that require fat in order to be digested. Since it takes about 45 minutes for these pills to dissolve, the bulk of the pill goes into your intestines and does not break up in your stomach. According to this source 97.5% of all vitamins, contain poor quality so-called “natural” vitamins that deplete your body of calcium and can contribute to health issues such as bone spurs, cataracts, or kidney stones.
            In the past, I always thought taking vitamins everyday was a black and white issue. I thought as long as individuals do not “overdose” on vitamins, no harm should prevail. After doing more research, however, this issue became much more complex than I first imagined. I was really shocked to find out how potentially damaging a single vitamin can have on an individual over time. Initially while researching this topic, I found myself accepting that “too many vitamins may be detrimental for your health. For me, “too many” meant multiple vitamins every day; However, I now realize that “too many” can mean taking one vitamin for an extended amount of time. I am a little shaken about this newfound knowledge. Many people take a daily vitamin, thinking that it will be beneficial for their health, when in reality these vitamins may have adverse effects in the long run. Although I recognize the importance of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, I also realize that it is not always possible for people to consume these foods all the time. As a result, I think it is crucial for people to be able to determine which vitamins contain harmful substances so that they do not deceive themselves into thinking that they are consuming something that is “supplementing” their health.
1. Brennan, Colin. “Vitamin Supplements: Good Or Bad?” September 4, 2007. Net             Doctor. <>
2. Stenson, Jacqueline. “A Vitamin A Day May Do More Harm Than Good.” January 29,
2007. Diet and Nutrition. MSNBC. September 24, 2009 <>
3. Swanson Vitamins Blog. “Are Vitamins Bad For You?”. June 9, 2009,
<            for-you.html>
4. Wicklund, Beth M. “Are Too Many Vitamins Bad For You” ABC News Medical Unit 
February 27, 2007<>



Steve Meyers's picture

Quality of vitamins

Only recently, I heard about synthetic vitamins (should they even be called vitamins?) and petroleum distillates. I was totally shocked, especially knowing the warnings we see about the hazards of these chemicals in household products: Don't breathe the vapors; Use in a well ventilated area; Wear rubber gloves when using this product.

I also know that not all vitamins are manufactured the same way or come from the same sources. The best vitamin products are not synthetic vitamins and they come from plant sources. Vitamins and minerals from plant sources have been "digested" by the plants and changed into substances that the human body will recognize as nutritional and can digest and use. Substances like that are referred to as bio-available. The best vitamin/mineral products are made using GMPs, Good Manufacturing Practices, that guarantee product quality and nutrient levels from pill to pill and bottle to bottle.

As the author of this article pointed out, the synthetic vitamins take a long time to dissolve. I read about an experiment conducted in a major city (Seattle, I think): the water treatment people put a special filter on their machinery and, in one day, found 100,000 undigested vitamin pills had come through their system.

The best multivitamin/mineral products are expensive by comparison. But would you rather spend a little and get something that will do you no good and possibly cause harm? Or spend considerably more and get something that is truly beneficial for your body and can be taken daily?

Most mainstream medical people are woefully ignorant in the area of nutrition, mainly because their training contained little or no quality information about nutrition. As part of our commitment to ourselves, as part of our taking responsibility for our health, we need to do our homework. Find nutritional products manufactured with GMPs; find vitamins and minerals from plant sources.

I did. I take them with full confidence daily without hesitation. And I recommend them to anyone with a good conscience.

Paul Grobstein's picture


"I am a little shaken about this newfound knowledge."

Maybe there is something to the idea that science isn't about Truth?  And health advisors aren't either?  How should one deal with this in general?  in the specific case of vitamins?