We used to assume that vitamin supplements were harmless at worst and beneficial to your health at best. Then some studies were released that questioned this conventional wisdom. Are vitamins good for you or can they actually be doing your body harm?
Dr. Michael Elstein tackled this issue in Are Vitamins Vital?, a 2013 article in Well Being. “Supporters of vitamin and antioxidant supplementation and those who condemn this practice seem to inhabit a parallel universe”, he begins and goes on to find a middle ground that scientifically makes sense of the issue.
Dr. Elstein agrees that vitamin supplements can be dangerous and cites several examples:
- Excess iron can have a destructive effect on the liver and brain cells
- Folic acid can have a beneficial effect and help prevent cancer, but when cancer cells are present, can stimulate their growth
- Folic acid can “interfere with the activity of Vitamin B12”
- Zinc is a mineral that needs to be approached with caution. High doses can impair the immune system
He also cites research done by Dr. Michael Fenech at the Adelaide CSIRO that suggests too much Vitamins B2 and B5 can lead to DNA damage.
Dr. Elstein stops short of suggesting we should panic and dump all of our vitamin and mineral supplements, though. While even excessive use of antioxidants can backfire because they eliminate free radicals, which are actually needed to “switch on antioxidant defences”, he argues it’s all a matter of balance. Deficiencies can be as harmful as vitamin and mineral excesses.
In an earlier blog, Dr. Elstein’s 4 Pillars of Health, we outlined how he takes a rational approach to dietary supplements in his practice. Instead of blindly recommending a nutrient, he consults clients individually and uses blood tests to discover deficiencies and excesses. He only recommends dietary changes and/or vitamin supplements when he is confident they will benefit the patient.
You can take advantage of Dr. Elstein’s wealth of knowledge and experience at Petrozzi Wellness Centre, where he is available for consultation. For more information, email Norma at email@example.com or ring PWC on (02) 9518 0096.