Category Archives: Nutrition Tidbits

Supplements: Safe? Effective? or Dangerous?

303429_4594I’ve read results of countless studies on supplements and the results have been not just inconclusive, but contradictory.  Dr. Fuhrman, in Super Immunity, helps set the record straight and really explains why results of these studies have been all over the map.  Before you pop another multivitamin, read this! (Actually, just buy Super Immunity already.  I mean it!)

Dr. Fuhrman recommends “for most individuals a high-quality multivitamin/multimineral capsule to assure favorable levels of vitamin D, B12, zinc, and iodine” (144).  However, this recommendation comes with a heavy word of caution: “there is clearly a significant risk from supplementing certain nutrients on a regular basis….” (144).  The nutrients that research has revealed are dangerous to supplement with are folic acid (gah! The prenatals I was taking!), Vitamin A (both retinol and beta-carotene), copper, Iron, and large doses of Vitamin E.

Before rushing out to buy a vitamin supplement, I want to point out that Fuhrman does not actually know if a multi-vitamin without the above mentioned harmful ingredients would be beneficial.  He states that “…there is insufficient evidence to conclude that a multivitamin, as currently constituted, plays a significant role in extending lifespan or reducing the incidence of cancer.  However, since science has shown that the negative effects come from only a limited number of supplemental ingredients…a study conducted on a properly designed multivitamin, without those ingredients, would probably reveal health benefits” (145).

My favorite point is that although “beyond these above-discussed elements, there is no evidence that other nutrients in the RDI dose ranges found in ordinary multivitamin/multimineral preparations are harmful.  However, a crucial point needs to be made: supplements are not substitutes for a healthy diet.  To the extent that they offer some people the confidence to eat less wholesome vegetation, they are hurtful, not helpful.” (151).  Aim to get all of your nutrition from food!

Dr. Fuhrman suggests the possibility of having one’s blood tested for nutritional adequacy and also to see how much supplementation (if any) is needed to keep ranges healthy and normal.  This is a wonderful idea.  I’ve been tested before and plan on testing again this year.

Just a note, although I have never used Dr. Fuhrman’s vitamin supplements, I saw that he sells his own brand (free of the ickies) on his website.  I cannot tell you whether they are great or not, but I have been considering trying them.