Vitamins are bad for you

It’s all just a scare, of course, and it’s impossible to know the merits of each of the contributing studies in this meta-analysis, but I’m going to post about it anyway in case any of my readers are rabid vitamin munchers like me. I take about 10 different vitamin and mineral supplements a day. I kid not! I eat healthily as well but it’s become something of an obsession and addiction. I know, I know…

Today, the BBC news revealed that some vitamin supplements do not extend life and could even lead to a premature death.

Oh dear!

A review of 67 studies found “no convincing evidence” that antioxidant supplements cut the risk of dying.

Scientists at Copenhagen University said vitamins A and E could interfere with the body’s natural defences.

“Even more, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E seem to increase mortality,” according to the review by the respected Cochrane Collaboration.

The research involved selecting various studies from 817 on beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium which the team felt were the most likely to fairly reflect the impact of the supplements on reducing mortality.

It has been thought that these supplements may be able to prevent damage to the body’s tissues called “oxidative stress” by eliminating the molecules called “free radicals” which are said to cause it.

This damage has been implicated in several major diseases including cancer and heart disease.

I’m not buying it, even if I should. Mobile phones are bad for you, mobile phones are harmless; fairy liquid causes cancer, fairy liquid’s harmless, etc. etc. I’m going to keep on munching my vitamins regardless (and you should too). In my experience, meta-analysis are not hugely reliable and are often refuted in a short space of time. Besides, issuing blanket advice on whether or not someone (anyone, everyone) should take vitamin and mineral supplements is vastly irresponsible.

Take no notice, vitamin-lovers; they’ll be telling you something different next week.

14 responses to “Vitamins are bad for you

  1. Perhaps people who take vitamins are no more healthier because they see their little pills as a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet? Perhaps they eat rubbish and drink too much but think that by popping a few vitamins a day will stop the onslaught?

    Just an idea… I know that a lot of women who I have met through my cervical cancer experience now all religiously take selenium and eat a lot of B12 etc because some studies suggest that this helps boost the immune system an keep cancerous cell changes at bay. I used to myself!! I got fed up of pumping myself full of tablets though. I was desperate to protect myself from this disease, the paranoia was amplified by my experience. I do think that vitamins ought to be marketed a little more responsibly and it needs to be underlined that they are no substitute for a sensible lifestyle.

    And I;m spent. Just an idea or two 🙂 X

  2. Perhaps people who take vitamins are no more healthier because they see their little pills as a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet? Perhaps they eat rubbish and drink too much but think that by popping a few vitamins a day will stop the onslaught?

    Perhaps, Blue, yes. Actually, it’s very likely. I don’t do that because I have made sure to inform myself properly but I don’t doubt that many people do take supplements to make up for the rest of their diet.

    I agree that they should be marketed more as an aid to your diet and not a substitute. To be fair to some companies who manufacture and sell supplements, they do stress their limitations but people hear what they want to hear.

  3. This research was looking at people who take huge quantities of these vitamins as medicines, rather than as a dietary suppliment. I think you’re safe, G!

  4. The people in the ‘sample’ were taking the supplements for disease prevention, yes; but it didn’t say that it they were all taking them in high doses (from my reading of the article). Ok, the researchers concluded that supplements shouldn’t be taken in high dosages but that doesn’t necessarily imply that all 67 studies in the meta-analysis were on individuals who take supplements excessively. (And what constitutes excessively etc.?)

    But, aye, I’m sure I’m safe enough anyway. 🙂

  5. Oh, you could well be right, Our Helen – I was just going on what I read on this article. If the research does pertain to only people who take supplements in huge dosages, I may well write to the BBC to shout at them for not including that very central fact in their article.

  6. I take them as a supplement to a reasonably balanced diet and as a psychological boost. After all, it’s me finally looking after my body so it’s got to be good… right? 🙂

  7. I’ve never really believed that vitamins do anything. My Dr, who I loved and adored before he got a job and moved to Harley Street (the traitor!), told me that a varied diet would do you just as good. Perhaps I only held on to this because I can’t actually afford vitamins, but I can afford to make a soup from bits of old vegetable…

  8. YATW, you’re absolutely right about a balanced diet – I just think a little extra doesn’t hurt. Also, vitamins and supplements can be pricey in somewhere like Boots or H+B, but they’re cheap on many places online.

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