The human body is complex. Nutrition is complex. We wonder if we are getting the right minerals and vitamins from our food. We give multivitamins to our children; we take them when we are pregnant. Do we really need to take multivitamins or are they pointless?
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Earlir this year, the BBC reporte that prenatal vitamins were not necessary.1)http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36765161 The researchers found that most pregnant women only need additional folic acid and vitamin D, not all of the other nutritents in expensive prenatal vitamins.
Are multivitamins a marketing gimmick or do we really need them?
Not all multivitamins are created the same. Some are cheaply made with synthetic versions of vitamins and enhanced with colorful, artificial dyes.
There is little oversight by the FDA when it comes to multivitamins. In fact, Congress passed a bill in 1976 prohibiting the FDA from regulating the potency of vitamin and mineral supplements.2)http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WhatWeDo/History/ThisWeek/ucm117726.htm
Some quarters of the medical community are increasingly skeptical of multivitamins because of a dearth of evidence that they offer any benefit, and because there is little regulation or oversight. “In theory, vitamins have to be held to a labeling standard. But the FDA doesn’t have the manpower to really regulate that,” says Paul Offit, a pediatrician and author of Do You Believe in Magic? Vitamins, Supplements, and All Things Natural: A Look Behind the Curtain. “For all intents and purposes, it’s a system that goes on trust,” Offit says…
And although vitamin- and supplement-makers can’t tout specific benefits—“Guaranteed to ease arthritis pain!,” for example—they can offer vague claims about boosting your energy, balancing your mood, and the like. These tantalizing promises work: Americans spend billions annually on unregulated vitamins and dietary supplements. Offit chalks that up to marketing, specifically the kind that advertise supplements as replacements for fruits and vegetables. Often that happens right on the label, in the form of pictures of real foods.3)https://www.wired.com/2016/11/ritual-daily-multivitamins/
The afore mentionned author Paul Offit wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times citing many studies that found vitamins and supplements may actually increase mortality.
Then, in 2004, a review of 14 randomized trials for the Cochrane Database found that the supplemental vitamins A, C, E and beta carotene, and a mineral, selenium, taken to prevent intestinal cancers, actually increased mortality.
Another review, published in 2005 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that in 19 trials of nearly 136,000 people, supplemental vitamin E increased mortality. Also that year, a study of people with vascular disease or diabetes found that vitamin E increased the risk of heart failure. And in 2011, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tied vitamin E supplements to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Finally, last year, a Cochrane review found that “beta carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A.”4)http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/dont-take-your-vitamins.html?_r=0
The Annals of Internal Medicine found taking multivitamins “has no clear benefit and might even be harmful”.
With respect to multivitamins, the studies published in this issue and previous trials indicate no substantial health benefit. This evidence, combined with biological considerations, suggests that any effect, either beneficial or harmful, is probably small.5)http://annals.org/aim/article/1789253/enough-enough-stop-wasting-money-vitamin-mineral-supplements
Natural versus Synthetic Multivitamins
When studies report that we don’t need multivitamins, just what kind of vitamins (synthetic or natural) are being studyied and who funded the study? What are the quality of the supplements invovled in the study? Synthetic dyed supplements are not the same as natural ones.
The Annals of Internal Medicine has been accused of being pro-pharma. For a different perspective, consider what NewsTarget has to say questionning these findings:
To make sure these multivitamin studies show undesirable results, proponents of the study make sure their materials are based on cheap, low-grade, synthetic vitamins and inorganic minerals. Not coincidentally, these brands of low-grade multivitamins are actually manufactured by companies owned by pharmaceutical interests. Since these companies have a financial incentive to make multivitamins look bad, they intentionally make their multivitamin formulations subpar.
The vitamin E studied in this science review, for example, was synthetic, isolated vitamin E which already has a long history of being toxic for human consumption. The researchers never looked at full-spectrum vitamin E, including the tocopherols, nor did they bother to study a food concentrate form of vitamin E (because it would have been amazingly beneficial to heart health).
Beta carotene was also studied as a synthetic chemical in isolation, not as a food-sourced nutrient like what you might find in carrots or squash. So what these studies really prove is only that synthetic chemical vitamins are toxic to human health.6)http://newstarget.com/2016-02-29-big-pharma-and-the-mainstream-media-connive-to-undermine-the-benefits-of-multivitamins-in-the-name-of-pharma-interests.html
This raises some important questions, but vitamins are also big business. The $23.4 billion vitamin industry has a lot to loose.7)http://hub.jhu.edu/2013/12/17/vitamins-might-be-harmful/
Considering how little oversight the FDA has over mutivitamins, it seems prudent to only select high quality supplements from brands you trust if you and your doctor deem them necessary for your health.
Sun Warrior offers a great explanation on the difference between natural and synthetic vitamins:
The way these compounds are made is not remotely similar to the metabolic processes that plants and animals use to create them. The finished product is also usually a compound not exactly the same form as any found in nature. These synthetic vitamins, according to a multitude of studies, are not as bioavailable, absorbable, or usable. These “virtually identical” vitamins are not what we find in natural foods, not recognizable to the body, hard on the kidneys, and can often be treated as toxins. Natural Vitamin A – Vitamin A shows up in food as beta-carotene. The body must convert it into vitamin A to be useful. This sounds less effective, but vitamin A can be toxic in large doses. Beta-carotene allows the body to convert what it needs and discard what it does not as a natural safeguard against damage.Synthetic Vitamin A – Synthetic vitamin A is retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate. This synthetic is made from combining fish or palm oil with beta-ionone. Palm oil is leading to deforestation of rainforest and endangerment of orangutans. Beta-ionone is created using citrus, acetone, and calcium oxide.8)https://sunwarrior.com/healthhub/natural-vs-synthetic-vitamins
We were sent Smarty Pants Adult Gumm Complete Multivitamins to try. They do contain fish oil and thus not vegan.
All SmartyPants are non-GMO and made with organic sweeteners and eco-friendly ingredients. They contain no synthetic colors, artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives and every batch is third party lab tested. We value transparency, and it’s important for us to share what goes on behind our gummy with all our fans and customers.9)https://smartypantsvitamins.com/our-story/
Smarty Pants sounds healthy with ingredients like:
Other Ingredients: Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Gelatin, Pectin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors (Orange, Lemon, Strawberry Banana) and Natural Colors Added (Annatto, Organic Turmeric, Organic Black Carrot Juice Concentrate).
- No Synthetic Colors
- No Artificial Sweeteners
- No Artificial Flavors
- No Artificial Preservatives
- No High Fructose Corn Syrup
- No Gluten
- No Tree Nut Allergens
- No Fish Allergens
- No Peanuts
- No Dairy
Unfortunately when I reference the ingredient list on these gummys with the information from Sun Warrior, I find Smarty Pants Gummies contain synthetic vitamins. Take for example Vitamin A. In this case, it is retinyl palmitate USP. I commend Smarty Pants for disclosing the source of their vitamins so consumers know they are taking synthetic versions.10)https://smartypantsvitamins.com/products/adult-complete/
Synthetic vitamins cause the alarming, harmful effects in laboaratory studies, even when applied to your skin. The Environmental Working Group is concerned about synthetic vitamin A in sunscreens:
In 2010, EWG analyzed raw study data published on the website of the National Toxicology Program, the inter-agency federal research group that had tested retinyl palmitate, in concert with the federal Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research. EWG concluded that the government scientists had produced evidence that the development of skin tumors was accelerated when hairless mice were coated with a cream laced with vitamin A and then exposed to ultraviolet light every day for a year (NTP 2009). The daily exposure was equal to nine minutes of sunlight at its maximum intensity.
In January 2011, the NTP Board of Scientific Counselors affirmed NTP staff’s conclusion that both retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid, another form of Vitamin A, sped development of cancerous lesions and tumors on UV-treated animals (NTP 2011, 2012).11)http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-problem-with-vitamin-a/
In conclusion, synthetic multivitamins are beyond pointless. They are potentially harmful. In contrast, food based multivitamins hold promise for those who are not getting enough from their diet. Even products that sound good on the label promising to be GMO-free and organic may contain synthetic vitamins.
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