Dr Jay Deshmukh:-
Do I need vitamin supplements? Researchers take Multivitamin published back to back studies this week suggesting that daily vitamin supplements have few benefits and could even be harmful. There are reports that men taking Vitamin E have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Women who take daily dietary supplements have a slightly increased risk of death.
Where was this data published?
- This was published last week in The Annals of Internal Medicine, a prestigious medical journal from the US.
What were the studies in women?
- The research was carried out in older women aged 55 to 69 years over a 19 years period. The number of women studied was more than 40,000. The multivitamins and minerals were B 6, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Zinc and Copper.
What about men?
- Researchers at the National Cancer Institute published another study linking daily intake of Vitamin E to a 17 per cent greater risk of cancer of the Prostate gland.
So should people really be taking vitamins?
- Pregnant women or people with specific vitamin deficiencies can benefit from adding vitamins to their diets. In the past few decades, scientists are trying to assess the benefits of multivitamins in cardiovascular, cancers, dementia and other chronic conditions. Dr Steve Nissen Chairman of Cardiovascular diseases at Cleveland Clinic suggests that evidence is lacking. The concept of multivitamins has been sold to the people by an eager nutraceutical industry to boost profits he says. Dr Lee Green, a family physician at the University of Michigan says that it is a misconception that supplemental vitamins can lead to better health and help prevent disease.
Should you be looking at health in a pill?
- Health is not found in a pill. It is found in good food and exercises. We should not look at vitamins as magical cures for all our ailments. Dietary supplements should not be expected, in and of themselves and without the help of other healthy habits, to prevent chronic disease. One should not waste money on multivitamins, instead, buy fresh vegetables and fruits. Vitamins contained in these have health benefits.
What about the data published in the Archives of Internal Medicine today?
- Dr Jay Deshmukh:- Jaakko Mursu the lead author says that supplements are not protective against chronic diseases. In some cases, they may be harmful if used for a prolonged period of time. Based on these new findings people should be cautious now about taking these supplements. Experts say the best way to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need is to get a well-balanced diet.
What about Calcium and Vitamin D?
- Excessive Calcium and Vitamin D can do more harm than good. They may promote atherosclerosis. This problem may also be associated with Iron supplements. If iron is taken excessively without iron deficiency anemia it may do more harm than good. Excessive Calcium intake may be associated with kidney stones. We need to be careful when we take supplements.
What about Vitamin E?
- We just need 33 units of Vitamin E daily. It is possible to get Vitamin E in such foods as oils, meats, eggs and leafy vegetables. Most people get this vitamin in diet. Taking excessive Vitamin E is possibly associated with prostate cancer. Except for clear cases of Vitamin E deficiency, supplements of Vitamin E have no benefits at all.
Who is likely to benefit from multivitamins?
- Those who have undergone major surgery, those who have low immunity, alcoholics, those who have chronic diarrhoea or those who have undergone bariatric surgery may derive benefits in a limited way. In pregnancy, they are strongly recommended.
Dr Jay Deshmukh:- Taking multivitamins if not indicated does not have any health benefits. In fact, they may do more harm than good. Increased risk of deaths due to excessive supplements have been reported in women. There is an increased incidence of prostate cancer if excessive Vitamin E is consumed. This data has been published recently in prestigious medical journals.
Author: Dr Jay Deshmukh
Dr Jay Deshmukh is Chief Physician and Director, Sunflower Hospital, Nagpur Honorary Physician to Honorable Governor of Maharashtra and PondicherryCentral. Dr Jay Deshmukh is an M.B.B.S., M.C.P.S., F.C.P.S., M.N.A.M.S., MD From Internal Medicine – Bombay and New Delhi.