Here is a label for a multivitamin. Looks normal, but there are a few items on this list that we ought to know more about. Should I take this multivitamin? Some studies are pointing to the fact that supplements might actually be hurting rather than helping us. I believe there are a number of ingredients on this list that are beneficial. However some of them are actually quite risky. We need to start reading the labels on our multivitamins and make sure that they don’t contain any of the following ingredients.
Risky multivitamin ingredients:
Vitamin A and Beta Carotene: Ingesting these vitamins may interfere with the absorption of other crucially important carotenoids, such as lutein and lycopene, thus potentially increasing cancer risk. Recently it has been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers when administered as a supplement rather than ingested from food. Supplemental Vitamin A induces calcium loss and may contribute to osteoporosis. It has also been linked to birth defects. Do not take this supplement when pregnant.
Folic Acid: This is the synthetic version of folate, which is a B vitamin found in plant foods, especially those that are green. Folic acid is added to most enriched, refined grain products in the US and Canada in an attempt to replace the nutrients lost during the processing of whole grains. Scientists don’t yet know the implications of circulating synthetic folic acid, but more and more evidence suggests that supplementing with it can increase the occurrence of certain cancers (like breast, prostate and colorectal cancers). Your best source of folate is in foods like asparagus, edamame, lentils, broccoli, chickpeas, romaine lettuce and spinach. If you are pregnant, most doctors recommend taking folic acid for the fetus’ cognitive development. However if you eat beans and greens on a daily basis, you will get the healthier folate to your baby without needing supplementation.
Copper: Excess copper from supplementation in the diet is associated with reduced immune function and lower antioxidant status. Recent research has indicated that high copper intake combined with a diet high in saturated and trans fats could lead to an accelerated rate of mental decline in older adults. No need to supplement this compound. Copper is easily found in flax seed meal, which is a whole food with many added benefits like; improved cholesterol and blood sugar, controls blood pressure, and helps control hot flashes in menopausal women. Ground flax may decrease breast cancer risk by slowing the menstrual cycle. It may also control prostate enlargement as effectively as the leading prescription drug (Flomax). My husband and I put a tablespoon or two each morning on our oatmeal or shredded wheat cereal with bananas and blueberries. It’s also great in smoothies. It has a really nice flavor. Golden flax and brown flax are basically the same in flavor and nutrient value.
Iron: We need iron to build up our blood. But too much iron may increase our risk of cancer, heart disease, and a number of inflammatory conditions. Other conditions associated with high iron intake include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and diabetes. The body has no mechanism to rid itself of excess iron. It is easily able to absorb the right amount of iron in plant foods, but cannot regulate the iron in ingested blood or heme iron from animal foods. Most prenatal vitamins have iron. Is this necessary? Non-anemic pregnant women should not take iron supplements. It is associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, and maternal high blood pressure. Iron is a pro-oxidant and can induce oxidative stress and DNA damage. Only people with a confirmed diagnosis of iron deficiency should take an iron supplement. And even then, they should first try eating iron rich plant foods like chick peas and pumpkin seeds at the same meal with vitamin C rich foods (broccoli, bell peppers, citrus). Note: Drinking tea and coffee with your meals can impair iron absorption.
Zinc: Anyone eating a plant-based diet should be eating whole grains, beans, and nuts every day for their zinc. It is not necessary to take it in multivitamin form, but it probably doesn’t hurt. It appears that men may require more than women because they loose some in their semen. However there is some research pointing zinc supplementation to prostate cancer in men.