One of the most common questions to the doctor is what multivitamins we should take to maintain our health.
Dr. Alexander Myasnikov answers none of them! Healthy people who eat well, do not need to take multivitamins to prevent any diseases!
Dr. Myasnikov: why we shouldn’t drink vitamins
Why do people need vitamins?
Vitamins are substances vital for normal human metabolism. As vitamins, except vitamin D, cannot be synthesized by the human body independently, they must be consumed for normal functioning. Historically, diseases associated with a deficiency of certain vitamins are well known: pellagra, scurvy, pernicious anemia, rickets, and many others.
For many years, hypovitaminosis manifestation (vitamin deficiency), especially antioxidant vitamins, has been associated with an increase in some cases of atherosclerosis, the development of many types of cancer, and other diseases. There are many theoretical and experimental proofs of this. On their basis, synthetic vitamins have become widely used, often with minerals, for the prevention of diseases. But time has passed, and even more, studies have been conducted on a huge clinical material, and we have slightly revised our approach to vitamins.
A modern view of vitamins
Vitamins are considered and used as medicines in modern medicine. Not “vitamins”, not a dietary supplement, but a real medicine that is used to combat the condition of hypovitaminosis. Vitamins have no other indications, including preventing diseases.
Today it is considered that under normal social conditions, an ordinary, normal (from the point of view of a European) diet contains absolutely enough vitamins to maintain the health, I emphasize, of a HEALTHY person.
When do we need vitamins?
They are necessary if a person is
- an alcoholic,
- a patient with some metabolic disorders,
- a patient with absorption disorders
In these cases, vitamins are given to him as medicine. When we talk about healthy people who fully eat ordinary foods, these people do NOT need to take any synthetic vitamins for prevention!
Synthetic vitamins: review, risks!
We know that an additional supply of vitamin A is needed in many poor and undeveloped countries to prevent blindness. The vision processes are closely related to retinol and vitamin A. There are a lot of drops based on them, tablet vitamins containing beta-carotene and retinol. Beta-carotene and retinol are different components of vitamin A. For a long time, doctors hoped that it would help cure cataracts and improve vision. However, there have been studies showing that vitamin A not only does not prevent the development of cataracts, but is also fraught with very serious side effects (meaning synthetic vitamin A, but not the one coming with food).
As there are mentioned theoretical studies on the possible connection of hypovitaminosis and the development of oncology, the idea of an additional supply of vitamins to the human body to prevent cancer has formed the basis of many clinical trials. Patients began to get various types of vitamins and to see what happens for several years. In particular, they got a component of vitamin A — beta-carotene. When the first results began to come, the doctors were horrified, and the study had to be stopped: after 5 years, there were significantly more cases of lung cancer in the group of people who received beta-carotene (although it only concerned smokers, non-smokers almost do not suffer from lung cancer). Since then, we have understood that beta-carotene is associated with an increase in lung cancer mortality among smokers. This is a proven fact. The teratogenic (harmful) effect of vitamin A on the fetus is also well known (the child is born with defects). In older women, vitamin A increases osteoporosis…
Unexpected unfavorable results of thousands of correctly conducted studies have affected a lot of synthetic vitamins. At best, it turned out that the expectations that were placed on them in terms of disease prevention were not justified.
Everyone’s favorite vitamin C is found in large quantities in fruits and vegetables. It is necessary to stimulate the immune system, build connective tissue, and be involved in the healing process. It is considered that vitamin C can prevent colds, but there are still studies on this topic. About the reducing cancer theory when taking vitamin C, evidence-based medicine (large studies, retrospective analyses, a recent trial on 15,000 people) says the following.
Vitamin C does not affect cancer prevention. Regarding cardiovascular diseases, the use of vitamin C also, unfortunately, does not give anything positive.
It is worth talking about vitamin E separately. Doctors talk a lot about antioxidants, in particular vitamin E, and recommend them to prevent cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and infections. At first, cardiologists rejected this misconception. A few years ago, the “first swallow” appeared: a special paragraph was indicated in the recommendations of the Congress of American Cardiologists: “We no longer recommend vitamin E to prevent cardiovascular diseases.” Later, the results of studies came in time, which convincingly showed that vitamin E in large doses increases mortality from all causes, and, in particular, from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The people’s morbidity level was analyzed: who had illnesses and what, how many of them were in hospitals, how many died or were disabled, and which of them took vitamin E. The results were compared with the control group.
Taking vitamin E does not give any prospects in terms of cancer prevention.
Vitamin E can increase mortality from a variety of causes: oncology, atherosclerosis, kidney failure, diabetes, except, perhaps, thrombosis. And now help me, please, I rarely watch TV. Do we still have ads for antioxidants and vitamin E in our country?
We can find vital B vitamins in milk, meat, eggs, green vegetables, leaves, bananas, nuts, potatoes, and all vegetables. Checking the action of vitamins affected them as well. Scientists proceeded from the fact that theoretically B vitamins can lower the risk of developing cancer, as they interfere with the mechanisms of DNA synthesis and restoration of destroyed DNA.
Unfortunately, in practice, it is impossible to determine such a connection. There is no evidence that taking synthesized B vitamins is significant in preventing cancer. The same is true for cardiovascular diseases: experimental evidence of the assumption that B vitamins have a beneficial effect on the vascular wall has not been confirmed.
Of all the vitamins recommended today, healthy people should pay attention to folic acid and vitamin D. We can find folic acid in vegetables, especially green ones, meat, grains, and nuts. It also had high hopes of preventing cancer, hypertension, heart disease, hearing loss, and even senile dementia.
Current data from clinical trials are so contradictory, so for the time doctors refrain from taking folic acid to prevent these diseases. However, it is recommended for pregnant women, but not to make a pregnant woman feel better or to preserve her health. We are talking about the health of the unborn child, and about the prevention of a congenital defect of the fetal nervous system. It is proved that such defects are much less common in cases of folic acid intake.
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is synthesized by the human body under the sunlight’s influence. We can also find Vitamin D in foods such as milk, fish, and eggs. There is a theoretical justification for the use of this vitamin for the prevention of cancer and heart disease. But they are not enough to recommend its reception specifically for this purpose.
Nevertheless, for people with an increased risk of osteoporosis, and hence fractures, vitamin D intake is indicated together with calcium and magnesium in the correct proportion. Only a measure is needed: in the 60s in America, they overdid the vitamin D added to milk, and children with very high levels of calcium in the blood and seizures began to come to hospitals.