The dangers of mega-vitamins

Dr. Paul Offit says a healthy and balanced diet is better than taking too many vitamins. (Getty Images)
More harm than good

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 10:55 pm

WASHINGTON — When it comes to vitamins, more is not necessarily better, some experts say.

Vitamins are essential to convert food into energy and most people get what they need from a healthy diet, says Dr. Paul Offit, the chief of infectious disease at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and author of the book “Do You Believe in Magic — the Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicines.”

However,taking too many might actually do more harm than good.

“There are many studies that have shown that if you take these large quantities of vitamins, so called mega-vitamins, you actually increase your risk of cancer, increase your risk of heart disease and shorten your life,” Offit says.

Watch out for antioxidant vitamins like A, E and Beta-carotene, which can contain up to triple the recommended daily dosage. A better option for getting Vitamin E, for example, is to eat a handful of almonds.

“The problem is when you take these large quantities of concentrated supplemental antioxidants,” Offit says.

“When you do that, you actually shift the balance of oxidation in your body against you. In other words, you need oxidation to do things like kill cancer cells, which are probably generated much more frequently than we like to believe.”

For people whose diets don’t include meat or animal protein, Offit recommends researching food alternatives that contain the necessary nutritional value. Eating more fruits and vegetables is better than taking supplements, he says.

But fewer than 1 percent of participants in a recent study got enough essential vitamins from diet alone, Dr. Oz says. For these people, taking a multivitamin might be a good idea as long as you’re paying attention to the dosage. Click here for “Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Supplement Checklist.”

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