Vitamin Myths and Facts

Vitamins were once considered the solution to all of our nutritional problems. Recent research tells us a different story even suggesting that the vitamin is a waste of money and can, in some cases, do more damage to your health. Here's a look at a few truths and lies about vitamin use.

Cold-fighting Vitamin C

During the 1970s American Linus Pauling, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 and 1963, promoted the idea that Vitamin C helped prevent colds. The chemist so strongly believed this that he supplemented his own diet with 300 times the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C. But many called him a fraud who wanted to help out Hoffmann-LaRoche, a leading vitamin C distributor who also was a primary contributor to the chemist's institute of medicine.

Today there are still drugstores that sell vitamin C-based remedies for the common cold even though an analysis of decades of studies done in 2007 showed that vitamin C did not prevent colds in the average person. It did show some benefits for skiers, marathoners and soldiers training in the subarctic. And it did also show some benefits in reducing the amount of time spent sniffling by a day a year for otherwise healthy adults and up to four days a year for otherwise healthy children if the vitamin was taken daily all year. This minor sniffling reduction doesn't justify the expense of taking vitamin C all year and it's useless to pill pop after you get a cold.

The Fix All Multivitamin

In the early 1900s the multivitamin pill became the fashionable solution for a society that couldn't access a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit all year. Vitamin-deficiency diseases like rickets, bowed legs and pellagra (mental confusion) were common. And during that time period it served its purpose, but the modern world has so many vitamin-enriched packaged foods - a staple in many Westerner's diets - that it's difficult for someone to experience a severe vitamin deficiency.

While many people still aren't getting the nutrients they need, they should try their best to get these missing nutrients from food where the vitamins are more easily digestible and have other useful compounds not found in a pill.

The only group that benefits the most from multi-vitamins is women of reproductive age especially the right amounts of B vitamin folate (folic acid) which can prevent spinal cord birth defects. Sometimes a prenatal multi-vitamin is often the easiest way to get the necessary 400 micrograms daily.

Increase in Vitamin D Popularity

Recent research shows that Vitamin D -- also known as the sunshine vitamin since you get vitamin D from the sun -- may be a supplement worth taking. It appears to reduce a man's risk of a heart attack by 50 percent. And it can prevent colorectal cancer. The studies indicate that people would need to take 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day to receive any benefits from it.


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