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People have both general and specific reasons to take vitamin and mineral supplements.
The most common general reason that people take multivitamins
is that they want a safeguard against a lack of nutrients in their diet.
It is not clear at all that a person with a varied and otherwise healthy diet
should need this insurance, and the extra is likely only to waste money.
But this may be a more sensible reason
than some of the specific beliefs supplement users have
for taking a multvitamin mineral supplement.
Let's explore some of the specific reasons that people buy
these dietary supplements and examine their validity.
Some people say that taking vitamins gives them energy.
None of the vitamins, including the b-vitamins found in energy drinks, can give you energy.
Vitamins cannot give you energy because they do not contain any energy.
Energy in food is measured by calories.
Vitamins have no calories.
Only carbohydrates, proteins, and fats have calories.
Some vitamins, such as the aforementioned b-vitamins,
are active in energy producing pathways in the body.
However, this does not mean that your body will increase it's energy production
because you consume extra vitamins.
Even in the case of a deficiency of one or more vitamins important in energy pathways,
you would not feel any immediate effect after consumption.
The supplement marketers who are promoting vitamins as energizers
are simply taking advantage of this misunderstanding.
Another popular belief is that today's foods do not have enough nutrients.
Vitamin supplements and minerals are not needed
to make up for foods grown in depleted soils as if often claimed.
Most of the evidence people use to justify this claim
is cherry-picked, misinterpreted, and limited.
Today's plant foods are abundant and varied.
A healthy diet which uses a large variety of different plant foods
should more than meet nutritional needs,
barring any special needs or circumstances.
Another reason you may have heard a person say is
vitamins help me when I am stressed.
Well, there is more than one type of stress.
The type of stress that most people are talking about is emotional stress.
Does emotional stress increase the body's need for vitamins and minerals?
NO, it doesn't appear to.
However, physical stress, such as illness, hard work, injury to the body, or exercise
CAN increase your need for certain vitamins and minerals.
Most sources, however, do not bother to differentiate
and simply say you need more vitamins and minerals when you are stressed.
If you are stressed out then a multivitamin is NOT going to help you.
You need to deal with whatever it is that is causing you to be anxious or worried.
Even if multivitamins were needed when you were emotionally stressed,
this does not mean that they would make the stress go away!
A very common reason for taking these supplements is to prevent colds or other illnesses.
There is no reliable scientific evidence that taking high doses of vitamins or minerals
will prevent or cure any cold, other illness, cancer, etc.
Many people reach for the vitamin C when they feel a cold coming on.
You probably know someone who does this.
They think that the vitamin C will either keep them from getting the cold
or shorten the duration of the cold.
But it has no significant affect at all, as far as research has revealed.
Have you heard that vitamins and minerals protect the body from smoking or alcohol abuse?
This is a myth.
It is another case of confusing a physiological need for a nutrient
with that nutrient becoming a pharmacologic agent.
Yes, smoking and alcohol use may increase your need for nutrients.
Smoking may increase your need for vitamin C
and alcohol may interfere with your body's use of most nutrients.
This means that a supplement may be useful.
However, the supplement will NOT PROTECT YOU from the harmful affect of smoking or abusing alcohol!
Vitamin C will not keep you from getting lung cancer from smoking
and taking a multivitamin will not protect your liver from the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption
One rule that I haven't mentioned is that
a supplement should never be used to make up for a bad diet.
There are times, however, when we just cannot meet our nutritional needs
and in these times supplements may be advisable.
But when the circumstances which cause the inadequate diet change,
the diet should be the first thing fixed,
rather than to continue the habit of bad eating and supplements.
Related to this are the countless internet articles
claiming that strength trainees, bodybuilders, and other athletes absolutely must
use vitamin and mineral supplements in order to be successful.
The supplements are claimed both to increase performance and enhance recovery, among other effects.
This is often given the fancy name micronutrient support.
The truth is that all athletes, including strength athletes, need more energy intake.
This means more food, including a bit more protein.
comes more vitamins and minerals.
These additional micronutrients should provide
for any increased need for these nutrients.
Marginal deficiencies in some vitamins, such as B6, may impair athletic performance.
However, taking in more than adequate B6 will not increase performance.