Multivitamins, Exercise and Your Health
Exercise stresses the body. If you workout regularly, it's reasonable to believe you'll need more vitamins and minerals than the average person.
With little more than that simple assumption, the vitamin industry has stepped in and filled the shelves with products that promise to convert "food to energy," help "maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels" and "increase lean muscle mass."
No, no and....no.
It's a multi-billion dollar a year industry with some of the most widespread fraud we've ever seen. Hundreds of products on the shelves are making claims with absolutely no evidence behind them. Rather than helping you, taking a daily vitamin or supplement may put your health, even your life, at risk.
Here's a classic example of the tactics these companies use. This text is right off a multivitamin advertisement.
"Each and every vitamin and mineral is responsible for thousands of biochemical reactions, including the formation of hormones. Bottom line? If you don't use a good multivitamin and mineral formula you will never reach your fullest potential."
The statement starts with something medically correct. Vitamins and minerals are responsible for thousands of biochemical reactions. But then they use fear to direct you to their product. Without a shred of evidence or clinical study, they equate their multivitamin and mineral formula with a way for you to reach your "fullest potential."
You're never told if their multivitamin has ever been tested to assist with those "thousands of biochemical reactions" or even if it did...if that would be medically beneficial. And, of course, "fullest potential" is never defined either. It could mean almost anything, or nothing at all.
The National Institutes of Health, after evaluating the few rigorous studies available said, "Most of the studies we examined do not provide strong evidence for beneficial health-related effects of supplements taken singly, in pairs, or in combinations of 3 or more."
In 2006 the National Institutes of Health, in their State-of-the-Science Statement concluded that, "the present evidence is insufficient to recommend either for or against the use of MVMs (multivitamins) by the American public to prevent chronic disease."
If you think you should be taking a multivitamin because of what you eat, the most obvious solution is to eat a more balanced diet. But if you still want to take a pill to make up for any deficiencies, you should at least be educated about what to look for.
Start by eliminating things that have no benefit. Dozens of companies add ingredients that haven't been shown to help in supplement form. That includes boron, biotin, chloride, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, tin and vanadium. You get more than enough of all these from a regular diet. Don't bother with brands pushing any of them.
Avoid pills with megadoses of anything. Many sports supplements pack in ridiculous amounts of the B vitamins. Unfortunately, little more than 50 mg a day of B-3 (niacin) can cause a "niacin flush" and more than 3,000 mg a day may lead to liver damage. Take more than 100 mg daily of B-6 and you could experience neurological damage.
Skip the high doses of vitamin C too; there's no evidence it helps prevent colds or wards off other illnesses, despite more than 30 years of research. The United States Recommended Daily Amount (USRDA) is 60 mg. Any more than 250 to 500 mg and your body tissues become saturated. At doses of 1,000 mg or more and the only thing you have to look forward to is possible diarrhea.
The suggested amount of vitamin A people should take has dropped in the last couple of years. The old value was 5,000 IU, but current research puts the number at no more than 3,000 IU daily. Take too much and you increase your risk of hip fractures and liver abnormalities. Very high doses of 33,000 IU and up might increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
Calcium is a mixed bag. It can help prevent colon cancer and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Up to age 50, a reasonable amount is 1,000 mg a day and around 1,200 mg daily if you're older than that. However, if you're a man, don't take more than 200 mg from pills. Men who take in 1,500 mg or more daily may be at increased risk of prostate cancer.
When you go to a doctor or health care advisor, you're paying for a medical opinion. If that same person then tries to sell you vitamins or supplements, they're no longer looking after your best interests. What you've just done is pay for someone to give you a sales job. Don't buy it.
My grandfather used to tell me, "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The same can be said for people selling you vitamins. They have one solution for whatever problems you may have. There's no objectivity.
Get your advice and your products from separate sources.
For complete details on safe levels of all the major vitamins and minerals, click on the chart at the top of this page. Print it out and use it to make an informed decision the next time you're shopping for or comparing multivitamins.
This information is so important; we made a video to explain it.
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