The Myth About Vitamins Exposed - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/07/07

The Myth About Vitamins Exposed

"Don't forget to take your vitamins" is a familiar phrase we all grew up with. For many of us, taking vitamins and other supplements have become an essential part of our daily routine. But do we really need them?

In this day and age, people are doing everything they can to look good and feel better. From working out at local gyms to taking supplements, like vitamins and minerals.

A vitamin is defined as an essential nutrient that the body has to obtain from an outside source, like food or a tablet.  Our bodies need vitamins to stay healthy, but not all of them. In fact, some vitamins can actually make us sick.

Lots of people are looking for that magic pill that will, "help" them in their quest for a healthy body, and no one knows that better than Peter Brodhead, co- owner of Brighter Day Natural Food Market in downtown Savannah. Peter makes it his business to keep his clients up to date on what what's hot and what's not in vitamins and minerals.

And right now, vitamin D is at the top of his list. "They used to think that vitamin D was just involved in getting calcium into the bones," Brodhead explained. "Now they realize that it is a massive cell regulator. That it regulates inflammation cycles in the body, it regulates cancer growth cycles, it may be regulating hypertension."

Laurie Heller shops for vitamins according to what her body needs. She says vitamins make her feel energetic and healthy, "I was a little over stressed a couple of weeks ago. Almost immediately, I felt balanced out."

But even though vitamins are supposed to be good for us, are we taking some we may not need at all? A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association says, "yes".

"Some people will come in and tell me I took this vitamin and I felt so much better. And I'm sure that they really did," says Dr. Paul Bradley, a specialist in Internal Medicine with the St. Joseph's Candler Medical Group. "Did they really have a positive benefit? Or is it all placebo effect? Hard to say."

Dr. Bradley says several studies, including the newly released study, are finding that some vitamins, like vitamin E, don't do what researchers originally thought.

"We were fully expecting from smaller studies that vitamin E was fantastic in reducing heart attacks and preventing strokes," Dr. Bradley told us. "Unfortunately, when the big study was done with thousands of patients, it just didn't pan out."

And it's not just vitamin E. The study found that vitamins A, C, and beta carotene don't appear to have any health benefits at all. "There's yet to be a study that says vitamin C does anything," says Dr. Bradley. "Everybody loves to tell me, 'I take vitamin C to prevent a cold'. But unfortunately, there's simply not been a study that shows vitamin C prevents a cold."

Peter Brodhead disagrees and says vitamin C is essential for our body because it's the only one we can't make ourselves. "Mammals, apes, and guinea pigs do not have the ability to make it," he says. "We don't have that enzyme that does that, so we have to get it from outside sources."

But Peter does admit there is such a concept as too much of a good thing, like vitamin A. Too much of it can make us sick. "Pure vitamin A, which is from fish liver oil. If you have to much of it, it can accumulate in the liver and cause liver toxicity in high amounts," Brodhead explained.

That's the extreme. Most of the time, if you take too much of a certain vitamin, your body will just get rid of it.

"Vitamin C is a great example," says Dr. Bradley. "The truth is, it's going to end up in the toilet. So all that money you spent at the vitamin store, your body's got more sense, and it's going to send it right through your system."

While there are some vitamins out there that can be harmful, there are many others that help our bodies stay healthy.

Tune in to THE News at 6 on Tuesday to find out which vitamins are right for you as this special assignment, The ABC's of Vitamins continues. 

Reported by: Melanie A. Ruberti, mruberti@wtoc.com

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