You Do Not Need a Daily Vitamin

Unless your doctor says so.

Episode 152 of Heart Health Radio included a great conversation with Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch. His websites examine medical; fraud, bad medical advice and nutritional claims.

Dr. Barrett is a retired psychiatrist and has co-authored a book on vitamin quackery. The full text of the book is here.

From the show:

Dr. Stephen Barrett: Generally speaking, most of them are not useful. There are some people who might need to take extra folic acid or might need to take B12. Some people might need to take calcium. But when it comes to the combination products, not a lot of rational use.

Dave Alexander: Even the ones that are advertised with the steely, silver-haired guy who is wind surfing and he’s in his 70s but he looks so good. Shouldn’t I be taking as I get older some sort of supplemental vitamin?

Dr. Stephen Barrett: Well, not simply because you’re getting older. It’s actually not even the right question to ask.

Dave Alexander: OK.

Dr. Stephen Barrett: The question should start with; do I have an adequate diet. If you have an adequate diet then you’re not going to need supplements, or at least most people won’t. So, you should start with an adequate diet which means you write down what you eat for three, four, seven days and figure out whether there is anything missing. If you don’t know how do to it yourself, have a dietician do it. It’s only a one-time thing.

Dr. Frank Wefald: I think that’s a really good point.

Dr. Stephen Barrett: There is a lot more to diet and nutrition than simply vitamins.

Dr. Frank Wefald: I think that’s a really good point.

Dr. Stephen Barrett: If you want to take a multivitamin for insurance, you don’t need to take it every day because there is just about nobody that needs that much. It’s more than most people need. I eat a very low-fat diet and I don’t have…I’m concerned about trace minerals. I take one multivitamin a week just to make sure I have enough trace minerals.

Dr. Frank Wefald: I think that’s a smart thing….go ahead.

Dr. Stephen Barrett: The studies of vitamins in controlled scientific studies with only one exception have found that they don’t do much good. Just within the past month a new article came out, really shocking, saying that they found in patients with breast cancer taking some of the common antioxidant pills actually led to a worse outcome.

Dr. Frank Wefald: That’s funny. That was one of our articles that we were going to discuss today.

Here’s link to one article describing the study. — Dave

Dave Alexander: That’s on the list of our things to talk about today.

Dr. Frank Wefald: Well, I’m glad you brought it up. One thing I do want to mention, some vitamins are necessary. Vitamin B12 is necessary in people who are B12 deficient.

Dr. Frank Wefald: Interestingly I started to measure that and it’s turned out that there are more people than you think are vitamin B12 deficient. I think it’s important to ask your physician, do you need vitamins? There is vitamin D deficiency and that’s controversial. Some people don’t think you even need to treat that. Then there is a condition and Dr. Barrett mentioned folic acid, a specific cardiac condition called homocysteinemia. You have too much homocysteine, which is an amino acid. Folic acid brings it down and homocysteine is associated with a greater tendency to clot. But the point is there is that taking all these vitamins unless you have a vitamin deficiency is really not going to help you.

From Vitamin Pushers:

There are only two situations in which the use of vitamins in excess of the RDAs has proven value. {RDA is the recommended daily allowance.}

The first is for treatment of medically diagnosed deficiency states-conditions that are rare except among alcoholics, persons
with intestinal absorption defects, and the poor, especially those who are pregnant or elderly.

The other use is in the treatment of certain conditions for which large doses of vitamins are used as drugs-with full recognition of the risks involved.

Consult your doctor about supplemental vitamins, eat a decent diet and listen to Heart Health Radio Saturdays at noon on WPTF and on WPTF.com.

Here is the direct link to all the episodes.

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