Taking extra doses of vitamins may actually not be to your benefit and may even be harmful. A study of 35,000 men conducted over 7 years published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found that taking extra vitamin E may raise a man’s risk of prostate cancer. Another new study of 38,000 women in The Archives of Internal Medicine has found that older women who used vitamins and supplements had a higher risk of dying during a 19-year-period than women who did not.
Said Dr. Eric Klein, a Cleveland Clinic physician and national study coordinator for the prostate cancer and vitamin E study:
“You go back 15 or 20 years, and there were thoughts that antioxidants of all sorts might be useful. There really is not any compelling evidence that taking these dietary supplements above and beyond a normal dietary intake is helpful in any way, and this is evidence that it could be harmful.”
Study author Dr. Ian Thompson went so far as to say that “a man should go to his medicine cabinet and look to see if he’s taking a vitamin E supplement and very seriously consider whether he should continue taking it.”
He might also want to check the contents of any multivitamins he’s taking, as many of these contain far more than the recommended daily allowance for vitamin E of 22.4 International Units. Participants in the JAMA study were randomly assigned to take 400 IUs a day of vitamin E — a typical dose in vitamin E supplements — or a placebo. Those taking vitamin E were found to have a 17 percent higher risk of prostate cancer compared with men who didn’t take the vitamin; the study also tested the effect of selenium on the risk of prostate cancer and found none. In 2008, the study ended after a review of data showed no benefit.
63 percent of the women in The Archives of Internal Medicine study used supplements at the beginning and 85 percent by 2004. Here’s what researchers found:
Use of multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper were all associated with increased risk of death. The findings translate to a 2.4 percent increase in absolute risk for multivitamin users, a 4 percent increase associated with vitamin B6, a 5.9 percent increase for folic acid, and increases of 3 to 4 percent in risk for those taking supplements of iron, folic acid, magnesium and zinc.
Certainly we all need vitamins but, as these two studies and others suggest, the best way to get those nutrients really is from vegetables and fruits in the produce section, rather than from supplements in the aisles of your local pharmacy or health food store.
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