Myths About Vitamin Supplements

Myths About Vitamin Supplements

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For decades, vitamin and mineral supplements have carried a health halo. Many Americans believe they help lower their chances of getting a cold or flu while helping them function in a chaotic world. So it’s no wonder the supplement industry is booming with all the new products as the best fat burner options for athletes and anyone looking for a healthier lifestyle.

Zinc promises to limit colds; vitamin D builds bone and boosts immunity; and the B vitamins promise to help combat the effects of stress. Even America’s favorite prehistoric family (also known as “The Flintstones”) has gotten in on the action, formulating the perfect pill to protect our children’s health. But what’s the truth, and what’s just marketing hype?

Knowing the difference between science and fiction when it comes to supplements can be challenging. There’s little oversight, a lot of misinformation and swarms of controversy. And that’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re trying to stay on top of your family’s health. So before you gulp down any more capsules, consider these 8 myths about supplements:

1. Myth: Taking a multi-vitamin can make up for a poor diet and prevent disease.

Reality: The fact is scientists are still undecided about whether multivitamins are effective. Some studies suggest multis protect against premature death. Others show they offer no benefit. Either way, food first is always the best prescription for needed nutrients. Nature packages vitamins and minerals in perfect combinations and benefits our bodies with yet-to-be-discovered nutrients, too. Dietary supplements are intended to supplement the diet, not replace it. Check out the latest l-theanine sleep guide.

2. Myth: All supplements are safe because they are natural.

Reality: Anything that has the potential to be healing also has the potential to be harmful. Even though nutrients come from nature, when manufacturers process them into pill-form, they become unnatural. What’s more, natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe or effective. After all, arsenic is natural but an effective carcinogenic (cancer-causer), making it unsafe to consume.

3. Myth: You can’t overdose on vitamins.

Reality: If you take vitamins and minerals while eating an amped-up diet of fortified cereals and sports bars (which often contain 100 percent or more of the recommended dietary allowance for certain vitamins and minerals), you could be overdoing it. You might even damage vital organs in the process. Too much vitamin A can affect your liver and, in pregnant moms, can lead to birth defects in their babies; excess vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage; and too much vitamin C can turn the famous antioxidant into a pro-oxidant (which damages body cells), not to mention the diarrhea.

4. Myth: Supplements are tightly regulated.

Reality: Unlike prescription or over-the-counter medications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine whether dietary supplements are safe and effective before they hit the marketplace. Instead, consumers are at the mercy of the manufacturer. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any safeguards in place. Once a dietary supplement is on the market, both the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) monitor label information to ensure product claims aren’t misleading, but they are pretty understaffed and a lot of damage can be done before the FDA and FTC can get involved. There are a small group of watchdog organizations, including U.S. Pharmacopeia, and the National Science Foundation, offering seals of approval to products that are manufactured properly and contain the ingredients listed on the label. Those groups do not determine if they are effective, however.

5. Myth: Supplements are never necessary.

Reality: Dietary supplements may be beneficial for certain populations and to help manage various conditions. Examples include:

  • Someone on a calorie-restricted diet who may benefit from a multivitamin and mineral
  • Someone who is allergic to milk who may benefit from calcium and vitamin D
  • A vegan who may benefit from taking vitamin B12
  • Pregnant moms who benefit from taking folic acid

The jury is out on many supplements, but most experts believe products are only helpful if you’re deficient in a given nutrient. Women who lose a lot of iron due to heavy menstrual bleeding, for example, might need an additional iron supplement while those who are going through menopause may need extra calcium and vitamin D.