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Question
Posted by: Riette | 2011/11/21

are vitamin supplements really necessary?

I was asked to do an analysis of vitamins (which food contain what, how much of each is necessary per day etc) to see whether we are consuming the right quantities of vitamins. But after all the research I did I was told that the food quality has decreased so that it doesn''t matter how healthy you do eat (5 a day etc) you still need to add vitamin supplements. We buy all our fresh produce at Woolworths which we believe have good quality produce. I do not want to ask the Vital Vitamins expert since I believe it will not be objective.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageDietDoc

Dear Riette
The nutrient and sports supplement market is massive and worth millions of dollars, so it is understandable that the supplement industry would propagate the idea that all of us need extra vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and trace elements and that our 'modern' food supply is depleted of nutrients.
It is not necessary for anyone who is eating a balanced diet which includes all the food groups to take vitamin and mineral supplements. In fact, research published as long ago as 2007, indicated that the intake of excessive vitamins and minerals over long periods, can not only be potentially harmful, but also increases mortality (the death rate). Since 2007 when these findings were published, we as dietitians and nutritionists, warn our patients and the public not to take excessive vitamin and mineral supplements, esp beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E, which were shown to increase mortality significantly. One of the mistakes that people tend to make, is thinking that if a small amount of a nutrient like vitamin A is beneficial to health, then taking a large amount every day will be even better. This is not the case, but it is this mindset that is exploited by manufacturers of nutrient and sports supplements. Since 2007, more evidence has come to light that taking mega-doses of vitamins and minerals can be harmful. For example very high doses of vitamin C can cause kidney stones in susceptible individuals. Ingesting too much iron can cause deposits of iron in soft tissues like the liver and kidneys. Then there is the finding that obtaining our nutrients from foods has added advantages over taking concentrates in the form of pills and capsules. There are indeed people who need to take vitamin and mineral supplements for certain periods of time. If a dietitian or a medical doctor has identified that you or your children are deficient in one or more nutrients (e.g. iron or vitamin B12 deficiency anaemias, or calcium in osteoporosis), or have just had a serious illness or if you are going through a period of physical stress (growth in pregnancy, lactation, young children, etc), or psychological stress and your basic diet is inadequate as a result of suppressed appetite then the dr or dietitian will advise which type of vitamin and mineral supplement you should take and for how long. Popping supplement pills should, therefore, be avoided in populations that are basically healthy and eat a varied diet. For people living in poverty and surviving on a monotonous diet of staple foods who suffer chronic malnutrition, it is essential that their diets should be supplemented, which is why staple foods like wheat flour, wheat bread and maize meal in South Africa are fortified with vitamins A, B1, B2, niacin, folic acid, pyridoxine, iron and zinc. This is a nutrition initiative undertaken by the government to provide all South Africans with approx. 30% of the RDA per day of the above mentioned nutrients. This means that all of us who eat bread or maize meal do obtain about 1/4 to 1/3 of our requirements for these nutrients from bread and/or maize meal, in addition to the nutrients we obtain from the rest of our diet which nowadays also includes many foods and beverages which contain added nutrients (i.e. other breakfast cereals, margarine, flavoured water, fruit juice, etc, etc). Click on 'Diet & Nutrition' at the top of this page and do a Search for the article "Are vitamin supplements fatal", which I wrote on this topic.
I hope this helps.
Best regards
DietDoc

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

2
Our users say:
Posted by: Roommate | 2011/11/29

Not only necesasary but essential.
The food we buy contain just about nothing, after bein frozen and transported etc etc.
I go without my Vitamins for 5 days and I end up sick with something.....

Reply to Roommate
Posted by: DietDoc | 2011/11/22

Dear Riette
The nutrient and sports supplement market is massive and worth millions of dollars, so it is understandable that the supplement industry would propagate the idea that all of us need extra vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and trace elements and that our 'modern' food supply is depleted of nutrients.
It is not necessary for anyone who is eating a balanced diet which includes all the food groups to take vitamin and mineral supplements. In fact, research published as long ago as 2007, indicated that the intake of excessive vitamins and minerals over long periods, can not only be potentially harmful, but also increases mortality (the death rate). Since 2007 when these findings were published, we as dietitians and nutritionists, warn our patients and the public not to take excessive vitamin and mineral supplements, esp beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E, which were shown to increase mortality significantly. One of the mistakes that people tend to make, is thinking that if a small amount of a nutrient like vitamin A is beneficial to health, then taking a large amount every day will be even better. This is not the case, but it is this mindset that is exploited by manufacturers of nutrient and sports supplements. Since 2007, more evidence has come to light that taking mega-doses of vitamins and minerals can be harmful. For example very high doses of vitamin C can cause kidney stones in susceptible individuals. Ingesting too much iron can cause deposits of iron in soft tissues like the liver and kidneys. Then there is the finding that obtaining our nutrients from foods has added advantages over taking concentrates in the form of pills and capsules. There are indeed people who need to take vitamin and mineral supplements for certain periods of time. If a dietitian or a medical doctor has identified that you or your children are deficient in one or more nutrients (e.g. iron or vitamin B12 deficiency anaemias, or calcium in osteoporosis), or have just had a serious illness or if you are going through a period of physical stress (growth in pregnancy, lactation, young children, etc), or psychological stress and your basic diet is inadequate as a result of suppressed appetite then the dr or dietitian will advise which type of vitamin and mineral supplement you should take and for how long. Popping supplement pills should, therefore, be avoided in populations that are basically healthy and eat a varied diet. For people living in poverty and surviving on a monotonous diet of staple foods who suffer chronic malnutrition, it is essential that their diets should be supplemented, which is why staple foods like wheat flour, wheat bread and maize meal in South Africa are fortified with vitamins A, B1, B2, niacin, folic acid, pyridoxine, iron and zinc. This is a nutrition initiative undertaken by the government to provide all South Africans with approx. 30% of the RDA per day of the above mentioned nutrients. This means that all of us who eat bread or maize meal do obtain about 1/4 to 1/3 of our requirements for these nutrients from bread and/or maize meal, in addition to the nutrients we obtain from the rest of our diet which nowadays also includes many foods and beverages which contain added nutrients (i.e. other breakfast cereals, margarine, flavoured water, fruit juice, etc, etc). Click on 'Diet & Nutrition' at the top of this page and do a Search for the article "Are vitamin supplements fatal", which I wrote on this topic.
I hope this helps.
Best regards
DietDoc

Reply to DietDoc

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