Are Vitamins That Beneficial?

Time after time, doctors have been exhorting on the usefulness and benefits of vitamins, over and above the minimum daily requirements. As much as scientific studies have tried to confirm this, a slew of recent findings have failed to confirm the benefits.

Take a look at some of them:

  1. A large clinical trial of almost 15,000 male doctors taking vitamins E and C for up to 10 years has found that neither supplement had any effect on cancer rates, including cancer of the prostate.
  2. 14,000 doctors took vitamins C & E for 8 years but found they were of no help in heart diseases.
  3. Last month, a major trial studying whether vitamin E and selenium (the SELECT Trial) could lower a man’s risk for prostate cancer ended amidst worries that the treatments may do more harm than good.
  4. Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York studied the effects of vitamin C on cancer cells. As it turns out, the vitamin seems to protect not just healthy cells, but cancer cells, too.

Megadoses of vitamins - bane or boon?

I’m not saying vitamins are no good – everyone needs these nutrients to ensure proper body function, but the amounts for this purpose are often adequately found in the normal diet. What we are referring to is the ingestion of mega-doses of vitamins with the hope that its anti-oxidant effects will be good enough to mop up the harmful free radicals produced by the body. There are many patients I know who will swear by large doses of vitamin C to ward off an impending cold (there’s some truth in this, though).

Despite a lack of evidence that vitamins actually work, consumers appear largely unwilling to give them up. And this view appears quite justified as there is a perception that these scientific researches are poorly-designed. And that’s not helped by the recent revelation that many journalists and even radio hosts have benefited from financial incentives from drug companies. Take a look here.

5 responses

  1. There is an important element that should be mentioned. You are referring specifically to synthetically created vitamins. Vitamins, as found in nature, are groups of chemically related compounds. There is a part of this complex that science identifies as the organic nutrient. In the case of vitamin C, this organic nutrient is ascorbic acid. In vitamin E complex, the organic nutrients are tocopherols. These are the parts that empirical science feels are the workhorses and thus the essence of the vitamin. Therefore, science concludes, if these can be reproduced and supplied to the patient, all that is needed has been provided. Linus Pauling, after all, throughout his writings, basically states that there is no difference between natural and synthetic vitamin C.

    The problem is that this thinking does not take into consideration all of the enzymes, precursors, co-enzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and numerous other naturally occurring synergistic micronutrients that are attached to the organic nutrient while in its natural form. Without these naturally occurring micronutrients, the organic nutrient is rendered unusable by the body. In fact, some scientists feel that the organic nutrient mainly acts to protect all of the cofactors allowing them to arrive intact at the cellular level. As one researcher put it, to take the organic nutrient alone is equivalent to consuming a banana peel without the banana and thinking one has consumed nutrition. Whether or not this latter view of the role the organic nutrients play is entirely accurate, the principle of wholeness stands: leave out part of the watch, and you can’t keep time.

    If you pick up a bottle of vitamins and can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, it is most likely synthetically produced. If you pick up a bottle of vitamins that is created from whole foods, you will not only be able to read the ingredients, you will also greatly benefit from them.

    Doctor2008 responds: No, I was not referring to synthetic origins of vitamins but purely on the entity itself, regardless of origin. The point of it all is that scientific studies do not take into account real-life settings, and that includes the interaction of a vitamin with various chemicals in the living body as well as in the foods consumed. Neither do scientific studies account for the benefits in healthy vitamin users. Otherwise, I agree with what you wrote. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Doc,
    If vitamins cause no harm, why not take large amounts anyway?

    Doctor2008says: Excess of certain vitamins taken over some time can cause harmful effects, in particular the fat-soluble ones like Vitamins A,D,E.
    Take Vitamin A – the recommended daily allowance(RDA) of 900iu for adults is generally found in the average diet already. By taking Vit A supplements far in excess of the RDA over a long period, one can get a condition called hypervitaminosis A, which causes dry flaky skin, headaches and liver damage.

  3. I have studied this issue a lot lately. I believe in careful use of vitamins. I don’t believe in multivitamins, for the most part. My normal diet does indeed get plenty of vitamin A and vitamin E naturally in foods. I also get enough folic acid in my diet. However, I use synthetic co-enzyme B-Complex and regular B Complex – but not with every meal or necessarily every day. It does help with stress in my opinion. Niacin and B-12 are especially important to me. I also use a truly natural vitamin C product. I also believe in Coenzyme Q10 – people over 40 are already somewhat deficient. I also get almost no sun, so I take vitamin D – carefully. There are currently a few natural multi’s on the market. I might consider one of those but only at 1/3-1/2 the dose. Most mutivitamins are a waste of money for anyone eating a normal diet. However, all vitamins – even synthetic – can be helpful in certain situations – especially in real deficiency. I think all vitamin A and E should be natural.

  4. My doctor has recommended taking folic acid tablets for brain’s nutrition.
    I experience on and off attacks of dizzy spells and found myself to be quite forgetful. I also ocassionally suffer from headaches.
    Please advise on the advantages of folic acid consumption.
    Thanks a lot
    Doctor2008: On-line consultations are littered with pitfalls, especially when the full facts relating to your illness are not available. Consult your doctor and ask him those questions.

  5. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This
    is a very well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.

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