AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Avoid Your Vitamins?

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Taking additional vitamins, or dietary supplements, has always been viewed as being positive for our diets. Parents often encourage their young children to take multi-vitamin pills on a daily basis. Flintstones Vitamins (above), which consist of vitamins such as iron, calcium, and vitamin C, are among one of the most popular multi-vitamin supplements. I even remember my parents making me take them every morning when I was a kid. Many people continue to take these dietary supplements when they are adults. Daily vitamin supplements are also extremely popular among elderly people.

The question is, do these vitamin pills truly have positive health benefits if consumed along side a normal diet? A recent study in the New York Times challenges these long-held beliefs behind dietary vitamin supplements.

In this large study, scientists followed 38,772 women who averaged 62 years of age. Over 19 years, almost half of the women died, and scientists were surprised to find out that those who consumed multivitamins or supplements of folic acid, iron, magnesium, or zinc were more likely to die over the period than those who did not take any multivitamins or supplements. Thus,  “older women who used common dietary supplements died at slightly higher rates than women who did not rely on supplements.”

The scientists were also able to notice trends from their results that showed what effects the different supplements and multivitamins had on the women’s lives. For example, supplements like iron were “directly associated” with an increase in death among the women. Certain supplements like vitamin A & vitamin D had no affect at all on the women’s lives. Multivitamins were responsible for a 2.4 % increase in risk of death. Calcium supplements, however, actually decreased the risk of death.

After a study like this one, it may be necessary to re-consider the notion that taking additional vitamins is a positive addition to our diets. Parents might now want to reconsider giving their child a Flintstone Vitamin with his breakfast every morning, and a grandmother might want to lay off the daily pills.

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  1. mrmoz55

    I completely agree with this study, that there are no significant health benefits from taking all of these commercialized vitamins. Every day I take a shot of wheatgrass, which has proven benefits that far outweigh all of these vitamins. People often refer to it as a “Superfood”. Not only does it increase your red blood cell count, but it all cleans out your blood of harmful toxins.Wheatgrass is also known to prevent cancer and tumors without having the toxic materials of all the drugs they give you today.I recommend to take wheatgrass every day.

  2. biologiamaster

    Its refreshing to see that dietary supplements are being given a second look, however it seems that the studies provided in the article identifies correlation not causation. While the group of women taking the mentioned supplements may have shown higher death rates, the study does not take into account the likelihood that many women took security in supplementing and perhaps slacked on more nutritious and wholesome foods. The studies also don’t account for the possibility that certain synthetic supplements may aggravate pre-existing conditions, as the linus pauling institute warms “Individuals with impaired kidney function are at higher risk for adverse effects of magnesium supplementation,”. This is the case with magnesium, however many supplements seem to be of benefit or harm depending on the individuals conditions.


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