Friday, April 8, 2011

Conflicting reports about vitamins

We all know that getting our vitamins and minerals from foods is the best way. However, I, along with everyone else in the U.S., have been prescribed Vitamin D. I also was advised to take iron when I was younger and borderline anemic. Doctors have also suggested Vitamin E, calcium, and Niaspan (a prescription drug derived from high doses of niacin) at times, and I still take fish oil supplements on doctor's recommendations. Many doctors also say that taking a multivitamin (not one with mega doses) is ok.

I'm sure I needed the Vitamin D and probably should still be taking it, though I'm not the best at remembering to. We get Vitamin D from the sun. However, I am fair-skinned, with a history of skin cancer on both sides of my family, and I try to be good about wearing sun screen. I am really careful each time I take my father to the dermatologist to have what seems like half of his body sprayed down with liquid nitrogen. Also watching large cancers being cut out of his scalp seems to make me reach for the bottle of sun screen. I used to think my last words to my equally fair skinned children would be, "Wear your sun screen!", but they are adults now and must make their own decisions. If, however, you want to track down my daughter and daughter-in-law and warn them not to climb into tanning machines, you have my permission. :)

I have tried a lot of different kinds of vitamins and have a shelf full of still-in-date ones that I have promised myself I will work through. The vitamin that makes me feel the best is Emergen-C, probably because of the magnesium in it. I do seem to feel better if I have just a little supplemental magnesium and sometimes take supplements with calcium and magnesium in them. I'm not endorsing Emergen-C or calcium supplements. If you take too much magnesium, it can dangerously affect your heart rate and also give you diarrhea. Plus, there are conflicting reports about whether it's safe to take Vitamin C or not. I'm just saying that I seem to have a little more energy when I do take it. After I work through all of the vitamins on my vitamin shelf, I don't know if I will buy more or not.

This matter of conflicting reports about the usefulness and/or safety of vitamin supplements is confusing -- at least to me. Here are a smattering of links I've gathered in case you'd like to research the topic along with me.

Multivitamin Use May Have No Effect in Post-Menopausal Women.
Risks of Taking Common Vitamin Supplements -- Some May Actually Increase Risk of Death
Organic Foods May not Have As Many Vitamins as Those Grown with Pesticides
Discussion of Risks/Benefits Vitamin D from Vegan perspective -- how to get Vit. D from sun
(I'm not vegan, but good article for vegans and even those of us who aren't)
How much Vitamin D/Calcium
Calcium Supplements May Cause Heart Attacks
Dr. Oz advice re calcium
Reuters: Vitamin C, E do little to cut heart risk
Study says Vitaman C does have positive effect heart
Mega-Doses Vitamin C cause hardening of arteries
Who should take Vitamin B-12 supplements?
10 common vitamins not to take without doctor's orders
What vitamins should you take?
10 Vitamins you should be taking -- take for particular needs

As you can see from just this sampling, there are a variety of opinions about which vitamin supplements you should take or if you should take vitamins at all. I would suggest that the Internet isn't the most reliable source of health information. I do believe in the old advice about discussing the vitamins you take with a doctor you trust. The media, including the Internet, tends to target the latest study and that often not very well A doctor has more of a broad look at all the research and the years of training and experience with which to interpret the data.

Research into the use of vitamin supplements is interpreted in the media according to the philosophy of the author. Some are highly skeptical of the vitamin industry; others are biased toward the vitamin industry. Some people believe strongly that adding vitamins to a healthy lifestyle is the way to go; others believe just as strongly that vitamins are useless and even harmful for those who are living a healthy lifestyle. Some people mistrust medical science and tend to believe any claims made by alternative practitioners; others mistrust the claims of alternative practitioners and believe only research backed up by credible science. Others fall somewhere in between and are just trying to find the best way to feel and to be healthy.

Vitamin supplements and cosmetics are marketed to us in ways that appeal to our desire to feel and look wonderful at every moment. Advertising for these products often grabs our emotions and our senses in such a way that we want to believe whatever fabulous claim the product is making. I know I'm susceptible to some claims. However, when it comes to popping pills, we should use caution, I think.

How about you? What do you make of all the vitamin research? Do you take vitamin supplements? If so, have you found them to give you increased health and energy?

I'd love to hear what your vitamin experiences are.

Good health to you!

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