Q&A: RE-THINKING MULTIVITAMINS
Posted: December 24, 2013
By: Michael Klaper, M.D.
I used to take a multivitamin tablet every day. I don’t anymore and I recommend my patients don’t either.
You might think, “What can be bad about taking a vitamin? We need them, right?” Well, yes, we do. Now, consider this…
Vitamins needed to make essential chemical reactions happen in our cells are found in the colorful fruits and vegetables that should compose the majority of our diet. When we eat, say, a carrot, we ingest a family of molecules called carotenes. Alpha carotene, beta-carotene, gamma carotene, epsilon carotene – a symphony of natural molecules – are present in modest, balanced amounts.
However, vitamin manufacturers take one carotene – beta-carotene – and concentrate it into extremely high amounts. 50,000 International Unit’s or more is a typical dose. At this concentration, you have created a pharmaceutical agent, essentially, a drug that has often has unforeseen side effects.
Although taking multivitamins may seem “natural” and “good,” the reality is that when you actually follow people who take multivitamins on a regular basis, many do not do so well.
For example, people who consume high doses of vitamin A are more susceptible to hip fractures (1).
People who take large doses of beta carotenes raise their odds of heart disease (2); smokers who consume large amounts of beta-carotene may be more prone to having a hidden lung cancer grow more aggressively (3).
Large amounts of folic acid (not naturally occurring folate in dark green vegetables which is the source from which we should get this essential vitamin) can promote breast cancers in women (4) and prostate cancers in men (5).
As a result, I have stopped taking daily multivitamins and recommend the same course for my patients, family, and friends. Your best source of vitamins are large, colorful salads, hearty vegetable soups and stews, large plates of dark green leaf vegetables, colorful fruit salads, and all the other naturally vitamin-rich plants that Nature gives us to enjoy.
What to do with that bottle of vitamins on your shelf? Taking one of the tablets one time per week, might be helpful as a source of trace minerals such as selenium, cobalt, and iodine. After the bottle is empty, use the money you save to purchase colorful organic produce. You – and our planet – will be healthier for it.
To schedule a private consultation with me by phone or video, please call the TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California (about one hour north of San Francisco). The Front Desk at TrueNorth can be reached from 9a – 5p Monday through Saturday, and 12:30p – 4p on Sundays. Phone: 1-707-586-5555.
Yours in health,
Dr. Michael Klaper
1) Melhus H, Michaelsson K, Kindmark A, et al: Excessive dietary intake of vitamin A is associated with reduced bone mineral density and increased risk for hip fracture. Ann Intern Med 1998;129:770-778.
2) Lancet 2003;361:2017-2023.
3) Mayne ST: Beta-carotene, carotenoids, and disease prevention in humans. FASEB J 1996;10:690-701.
4) Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ et al. Folate intake, alcohol use, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):895-904. Kim YI. Does a high folate intake increase the risk of breast cancer? Nut Rev; 2006; 64(10PT1) 468-75.
5) Figueiredo JC et al. Folic acid and risk of prostate cancer: results from a randomized clinical trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Mar 18;101(6):432-5. Epub 2009 Mar 10.