I encourage people to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise. Some clients at Team Worx Fitness in Alexandria, VA, have asked me if OTC vitamins—over the counter vitamins—offer benefits. It’s easy to understand how you might think they help, since Americans purchase over millions of dollars worth each year, and even more if you include other types of supplements. Is it really healthy or is it just good advertising that drives those sales?
Supplements may not offer the benefits you hoped.
There are three studies recently completed at John Hopkins that looked into whether supplements were beneficial or not. They were all large, with the biggest study following 450,000 people. That large study showed OTC multivitamins didn’t reduce the risk for cancer or heart disease. The same was true of one of the smaller, yet significant studies. The last smaller study, which had only 5947 subjects, looked at multivitamins use and the potential for reducing mental decline. The study followed these people for 12 years and found they didn’t have any effect.
OTC products may not be bioavailable.
No matter how dedicated you are to taking your vitamins, your body may not get the benefits. That’s because it can’t absorb the nutrients it offers. Even if it’s a pure form of the vitamin, your body may not be able to use it because it’s not bioavailable. Lots of things determine bioavailability. How quickly the vitamin breaks down is one. If it breaks down too easily, it doesn’t have a long shelf life, but if it has a longer shelf life, you may find it in your toilet amidst the corn and peanuts that also don’t digest. Some drugs taken with vitamins limit their availability and some forms of the vitamin do too.
Taking too much of anything is not necessarily a good thing.
If you’re taking high doses of a vitamin, it can be toxic. While it may not kill you, if you take more vitamin C than you need, you’ll end up with diarrhea and urine rich in vitamin C. The real dangers come with fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin E, D or A. High amounts of vitamin E increase the risk of stroke. People who smoke and take high amounts of vitamin A or beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer.
- Taking calcium supplements, particularly if you’re a senior, may actually be dangerous. It can cause calcium to build up in artery walls. You’re better off doing weight bearing exercises to help prevent osteoporosis.
- Taking multivitamins and thinking you’ve got your basis covered is just as dangerous. You need many of the phytonutrients to work in synergy for more effective benefits or even any benefits at all.
- Not all forms of the vitamin are bioavailability, meaning it doesn’t allow your system to use it. Many of the vitamin forms used in multivitamins are less expensive, but also less effective and harder to break down.
- Some vitamins may be important. For instance, vitamin D is extremely important, but many people have a deficiency, since they get little sun and it’s hard to get in food. Always ask your health care professional before you start taking any supplements.
- For more information, contact us today at Team Worx