Every morning, many healthy individuals take one or more vitamin supplements, hoping to prevent and ward off certain diseases. In a society like our own, it is quite rare to be suffering from a vitamin deficiency, unless we have a specific condition or ailment. In light of this, are vitamin supplements really necessary? Can they be detrimental to our health?
Certain vitamins are hydrosoluble (vitamins B and C), while others are liposoluble (notably vitamins, A, D, E and K). When taken in quantities greater than the system’s actual needs, hydrosoluble vitamins are eliminated by the kidneys, while liposoluble ones accumulate in the liver and fats, and could potentially reach toxic concentrations.
Some studies have evaluated the effect multivitamins have on various diseases. American researchers were recently able to demonstrate that men who take large quantities of multivitamins (more than 7 tablets per week) would be more at risk of suffering from prostate cancer, especially if they are combining it with selenium, beta-carotene or zinc, or if they have a family history of this type of cancer. A few months ago, the analysis of 47 studies by Danish researchers demonstrated that the intake of vitamin A, E or of beta-carotene could increase the mortality risk by 5%.
Evidently, vitamins are not benign substances that can be taken indiscriminately. Before you start taking a multivitamin, you should take stock of your diet to determine if your food intakes are sufficient. In fact, increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins is clearly preferable to taking a multivitamin. Fruits and vegetables also have the advantage of containing other essential nutrients such as fibres.
However, a very specific group of people is the exception to the rule: pregnant women and those who wish to conceive. In fact, these women should take a supplement of folic acid every day from the moment they stop their contraceptive method until the birth of the child. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube anomalies like spina bifida.