Friday, May 9, 2008

What? Vitamin pills are shortening my life?

It was very shocking when reading this 191-page review, dated 16 April 2008, titled Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases (file format: PDF, file size: 1.53 MB, click here to download). I believe many of us are taking multivitamin pills daily. Most doctors also take multivitamins themselves and recommend them to their patients. However, according to this review, it seems like we are doing more harm than good.

This review of 232,550 adults showed that those taking beta-carotene, vitamin A, C, and E and selenium gained no benefit over those who took placebos or no pills. "The findings show that, if anything, people in trial groups given beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E showed increased rates of mortality. There was no indication that vitamin C and selenium may have positive or negative effects."

The study was originally set up to see if antioxidant vitamin pills and minerals prevent gastrointestinal cancers. It found no protection whatever. Instead, an increased death rate of 16 percent was seen in those taking vitamin A pills, seven percent with beta- carotene, and seven percent with vitamin E. No increased death rate was seen in those taking vitamin C or selenium.

Most vitamins are parts of enzymes that start chemical reactions in our body. Each chemical reaction produces end products that are changed by further chemical reactions from other vitamins to other products that benefit our body. When we take a vitamin that has been isolated from the hundreds of other substances found in foods, that enzyme causes a chemical reaction that accumulates a disproportionate amount of its end products. If the substance that acts as an enzyme for the next chain of chemical reactions is not available, we can accumulate end products that may be harmful.

And don't forget that most of these antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin A and E, are fat soluble. That is, any unused portion will be retained by the body fat rather than being discharged from our body. When too much of these vitamins are being retained, they become toxic and poisonous, and we will suffer from that.

I visited the vitamins section of Guardian after lunch today and found that many of the multivitamin sold have very high dosage of certain vitamins and minerals. Some even go up to 500% or more than daily recommended intake. Unless we are consuming only vitamin pills and nothing else, can't we get those vitamins from our daily diet?

I've personally stopped taking all kind of supplementary vitamins and minerals for long time. Instead, I got them through natural food. But sometimes when I spot some deficiency, such as very dry lips, then I know I'm in need of vitamin B2, or riboflavin, I'll then pop vitamin B2 until recovery.

In a nutshell:

Try not to depend on pills for health well-being. After all, they are just supplements. Get vitamins and minerals through natural food instead. Otherwise, we might have to say goodbye earlier with this wonderful world.


Boonboon said...

eh eh.. how about glucosamine? can take or not?

|| Eugene Lim || said...

Hi boonboon,

I'm not very familiar with the use of glucosamine, although I think I'll take this supplement if I were to have knee pain.

Glucosamine is needed to produce glycosaminoglycan, a molecule used in the formation and repair of cartilage and other body tissues. Production of glucosamine in our body slows down with age. Its major benefit is to treat osteoarthritis. Based on human research, there is good evidence to support the use of glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis. Most studies have used glucosamine sulfate supplied by one European manufacturer (Rotta Research Laboratorium), and it is not known if glucosamine preparations made by other manufacturers are equally effective. Although some studies of glucosamine have not found benefits, these have either included patients with severe osteoarthritis or used products other than glucosamine sulfate. The evidence for the effect of glycosaminoglycan polysulphate is conflicting and merits further investigation too.

Many researches have a consensus that glucosamine supplement might lessen pain in some patients with osteoarthritis. Many doctors now believe it is worth trying these supplements for osteoarthritis. They appear to be safe, but doctors are warning patients that the quality and effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin varies because of the non-regulation. One of the clinical trial results Glucosamine and Chondroitin Are Better Than Pain Killers! suggested that after 5 years of well designed studies, it is scientifically proven that Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin Sulfate are effective. The only question is which brand to buy. So, if you want to try them, buy high quality products from a reputable source. It's also advisable to check with your medical doctor for prescription and dosage.

In case you want to get glucosamine through natural sources, you can find it in the connective tissue of animals, such as chicken marrow, and other animal materials, such as shell fish exoskeletons, all contain glucosamine. You can take animal marrow, or make it a constant habit to eat the broth made from these animal bones. The glucosamine supplements are derived from chitin, the hard outer shells of shrimp, lobsters, and crabs.

Boon said...

hehe.. thanks for your info.. anyway, I use to take it everyday.. now i am taking it alternate days...

|| Eugene Lim || said...

This is more about glucosamine. Glucosamine is necessary for the construction of connective tissue and stimulates collagen production. Collagen is the protein portion of the fibrous substance that holds joints together and is also the main component of articular cartilage, the shock-absorbing cushion which covers the ends of the joints in the knees, fingers, wrists, etc. Glucosamine binds water in the cartilage matrix and not only manufactures more collagen but also normalizes cartilage metabolism which keeps cartilage from breaking down. Research has also shown Glucosamine to possess remarkable anti-inflammatory effects. Glucosamine not only stimulates production of cartilage, but improves joint function and aids in reducing joint pain, including those suffering from arthritis and athletic injuries to the joints.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects tens of millions. This disease is typically found in the knees, neck, back, hips and fingers. It causes pain, inflammation and decreased range of motion. While osteoarthritis was formerly considered to be an irreversible process of joint destruction, research now indicates that damanged cartilage can be replaced by healthy new cartilage. Successful treatment programs for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis should focus on both inhibiting cartilage breakdown and the promotion of cartilage repair.

When we are young, Glucosamine is readily produced in the body to make cartilage in the joints. As we get older, the ability to produce glucosamine becomes more and more difficult, thus cartilage starts to break down. This is when stiffness and joint pain sets in. By taking glucosamine supplements, our body is able to stimulate natural cartilage repair.

But supplement is, well, supplement. So take with care and under administration. Good luck!