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Harvard Researchers Skeptical About Multivitamins

April 01, 2008 | 127,801 views

vitamins, multivitamin, supplementsAn estimated 35 percent of U.S. adults take multivitamins regularly, but according to Harvard researchers, this could be causing more harm than good.

The researchers cited studies showing that antioxidant supplements do not protect against cancer or heart disease, and may actually cause harm in some cases. They also reported that recent clinical trials show that B-vitamin supplements (B6, B12 and folic acid) do not prevent heart disease.

One study even found an increased risk of cancer among people taking large amounts of folic acid (who were also at an increased risk of the disease), and other research has also suggested that folic acid may have contributed to rising rates of colorectal cancer in the United States and Canada.

The researchers pointed out that while government-mandated folic acid fortification in U.S. grain products has reduced the rate of spinal cord birth defects, it may, when coupled with a multivitamin, increase your risk of cancer.

"There is no proof that a daily multivitamin is harmful," the Harvard newsletter concluded. "Still, it now seems possible that the high levels of folic acid achieved by well-intentioned people who take a multivitamin and eat healthful foods could increase the risk of colorectal and possible prostate and breast cancers."
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Americans spend an estimated $21 billion a year on dietary supplements, and I suspect that there is a great deal of truth to the conclusions reached by these Harvard researchers.

While I am not opposed to multivitamin supplements, as I personally now take one everyday, what many people do not realize is that it is up to the dietary supplement manufacturer to make sure their supplement is safe and effective, and that the label is truthful and not misleading.

Who Knows What’s REALLY in Your Supplement?

While you are relying on the vitamin company to provide you with a high-quality product, vitamin manufacturers typically rely on a “certificate of analysis” to confirm that their raw ingredients are safe and effective.

And where do you think they get this certificate of analysis? Directly from the supplier of their raw materials. There is currently no requirement to do an independent, third-party verification to validate that the raw materials in the supplements are what they say they are, or that they are in the stated amounts.

On top of that, making supplements is a highly complex process with a large number of steps -- and errors can occur at each and every one of these steps. Outside of the ingredients themselves, small oversights, human error, or cutting corners can lead to a supplement that is entirely substandard, or worse yet even dangerous.

So when it comes to choosing a supplement, weeding through your options can be like pulling a needle from a haystack. Even though you are well educated and have good intentions, if you are choosing your supplements on price alone, which is typical at a chain drugstore or large discount mart, there is a good chance that the supplement has not been verified through a rigorous quality control process. It is also likely made from primarily synthetic ingredients.

Remember the Meaning of “Supplement”

Supplement, of course, means IN ADDITION TO, not in place of. In the case of vitamin supplements that would be in addition to high-quality, unprocessed, whole foods, preferably raw and organic, diet. Personally, when I am not traveling I seek to have about 85 percent or more of my diet as raw food, and yes folks that includes my meat. But I only consume raw meat from the highest quality sources where there is virtually no risk of infection.

The moment you cook most food you lose a major element of its vitality. Very little is written about this in the United States, but in Europe the energetic element of food is more greatly appreciated. One example of this would be biophotons. And this is simply something that no supplement is going to provide you.

The only place you are going to get high-quality biophoton nutrition is from high-quality food sources.

Whole food sources also have the accessory micronutrients that may actually be providing more of the benefit than the precise nutrient you are seeking to supplement with. The classic example here is vitamin C or ascorbic acid. Is it useful? Certainly, without doubt. But it is far better if consumed with all of its accessory nutrients like bioflavonoids.

Drug Companies Did Get One Thing Right

As much as I hate to say it, this is one area where most of the drug companies have it right. They should certainly be given credit for one of the few areas that they exceed. Drug companies are under much higher quality assurance standards than vitamin companies and for the most part they do an excellent job of providing a product that is precisely what they say it is.

The problem, of course, is that most all drugs are synthetic and potentially toxic. They are nearly universally mere symptomatic band-aids that in no way, shape or form treat the cause of the disorder. And of course there is the occasional drug company that ignores the rules and produces inferior and sub-par products, but fortunately they are the rare minority.

The quality control issue will change in the United States at least, as very rigid standards have been adopted legislatively and depending on the size of the company, they will be under similar quality assurance standards in the next few years.

BUT, why wait till then?

Do Your Homework!!!

There are a number of high-quality manufacturers out there and you want to make sure that your company is following the ISO guidelines. For more details you can get a better idea by reviewing the information on the brand new multivitamin that we released earlier this year.

So if you are going to invest in a vitamin supplement, then for heaven’s sake do your homework! Take the time to ask the right questions, call the company or do independent research on the Net to confirm some of the issues I bring up in my new supplement page.

Why waste your money, and worse yet, risk causing you and your family members potential harm, by taking improperly made supplements?

Now, as for finding a high-quality supplement, there are several things to consider. First, you want one that is made from all-natural, non-synthetic, whole food ingredients. A high-quality supplement will also be free from additives and potential allergens.

Next, you need to make sure that the manufacturer is doing its job in finding quality raw ingredients, and during the manufacturing process. A good starting point is to ask for opinions for which companies are best at a reputable health food store, and also look for manufacturers that are ISO 9000, ISO 9001, or NSF certified. To gain these certifications a manufacturer will voluntarily submit to exhaustive -- and costly -- auditing of their processes to be sure they are superior.

The bottom line is this: your best choice for your nutrients is fresh, high-quality, unprocessed, whole and preferably raw food, plain and simple. But if you are looking for a bit of extra insurance, a truly all-natural supplement can sometimes be warranted.

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