Dr. Richard Restak, M.D.
(Neuroscientist, who has 18 books on brain to his credit): “More than half of adults… take some form of vitamin or mineral supplement at a total cost of $23 billion a year. The antioxidant market alone grew by 18% between 2005 and 2006. Yet, there are several reasons for exercising caution with supplements.First, there is increasing evidence that supplements, in general, aren’t as effective
as eating foods containing vitamins and antioxidants in their natural form
. Even in nature, only certain forms
of the vitamins are biologically active. Of the eight different forms of vitamin E found in nature, only one (alpha-tocopherol) is extracted from the bloodstream — all other forms are excreted
.What’s more, while powerful antioxidant and other properties can be demonstrated in the test tube, many scientists now question whether similar effects occur in the body. In addition, the natural balance of vitamins and antioxidants found in natural foods is difficult to replicate in the laboratory. Nor
is the effect of a supplement necessarily identical to the effect of the natural vitamin. For instance, in a study comparing dietary vitamin E with vitamin E from supplement, only the dietary
form form reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.Second, some recent studies suggest that the ingredients of some supplements, if taken in excess, may even be harmful
. Too much vitamin E, for instance, can thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding and stroke, especially among people afflicted with high blood pressure.One study from Johns Hopkins revealed that taking 400 IU of vitamin E per day is associated with a higher risk of dying compared with getting vitamin E from food source
So far, such findings aren’t stopping people from scooping up large quantities of vitamins E, a trend that started in the 1980s. While almost nobody took vitamins E supplements in the 1980s, ten years later an estimated 23 million Americans were downing daily doses. Nor has there been any lessening of this trend.
Multivitamins — currently the most popular approach to vitamin supplementation — can also prove troublesome if taken in excess. “If one pill is good for you, two or more will be even better” certainly doesn’t hold true with multivitamins. Men taking more than one multivitamin a day increase their risk of prostrate cancer by 32 percent.
Similar caveats hold for most supplements in healthy people. Unless you are suffering from a deficiency of a certain vitamin, you aren’t going to benefit by taking supplements containing that vitamin. But to be fair, all of this assumes that a person is eating an adequate diet — a faulty assumption among older adults.
(pgs. 39 – 41, Think Smart)