Show notes after the jump!
Show Notes courtesy Amanda Leinbaugh
Vitamin supplements are so popular that last year in the US there were $23 billion of sales. This number is only growing as more and more people look to vitamins as a relatively cheap way to improve their health and prevent disease. They are supposed to offer a wealth of health benefits- from cancer prevention to healthier hair. The CDC even recommends that *all* women who can become pregnant take folic acid (which is a B vitamin) supplements in order to lower the risk of fetal developmental problems
CDC report – http://cdc.confex.com/cdc/pcs2007/techprogram/P13424.HTM
If we take vitamins in pill form, will we actually get the purported benefits? Will they just be a waste that we pee out? Or could they even possibly harm us?
-Harriet Hallâ€™s â€œShould I Take a Multivitamin?â€ article http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=160
FDA regulation of supplements
“Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to register their products with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.”
FDA supplement site: http://www.fda.gov/food/DietarySupplements/default.htm
There are two types of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble. The B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble, meaning we can rid ourselves of any excess by peeing them out. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble which means we can store them in our bodies for later use and can accumulate excessive amounts if our intake is too high. It does take a concerted effort to overdose on vitamins but it is possible especially with concentrated single-vitamin supplements.
-On dissonance of the effectiveness of vitamins contrasted with how popular they are http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=285
Common wisdom ascribes the same benefits of eating vitamin-rich food with taking vitamin supplements. However, most scientific studies have found no benefit or even harmful effects from taking vitamin supplements.
In 2008 there was a meta-analysis done on studies of vitamin supplements. 67 clinical studies were used, with a total of over 200,000 total participants. 21 of the trails studied vitamin effects on disease and the rest of the trials were performed on healthy individuals. The meta-analysis found that taking antioxidant supplements may actually have a detrimental effect on health. Vitamin C supplements were found to have no positive or negative effects on health.
In other studies, vitamin A supplementation has been linked to increased rate of hip fracture in post-menopausal women. High intake of vitamin A can also cause problems for fetal development.
-Link to PDF of the meta analysis
Yet with all this possibility for harm or just expensive pee, a lot of people still take vitamins. Many do it to make up for a poor diet. There is a lot of evidence out there that a diet made up of foods rich in vitamins and other nutrients definitely has a positive impact on health. Think of that in contrast to the lack of evidence that vitamin supplements do us any good and the findings that they can even cause harm in some cases. 23 billion dollars a year on pills that probably don’t do anything and can possibly hurt you. It’s something to think about the next time you feel guilty about your diet and try to assuage your guilt by reaching for the multivitamins.
Special thanks to Maria Walters, Amanda Leinbraugh, Edith Applesauce, and today’s band March of Dimes, who provided all the music. You can hear more at http://www.myspace.com/marchofdimesleeds, and their brand new EP From Those Who Were There will be available in April from iTunes, Spotify, 7 Digital, and Amazon.
Tune in to our next episode where we ask some gossipy questions about historical queens. Who was a virgin? Who got intimate with a horse? You know you want to know.
You can find more CuriosityAroused on iTunes or at curiosityaroused.com. Thanks for listening.