A healthy person does not need jar vitamins – exception that proves the rule!

As I am seeing many advertisements around the town encouraging people to kick off spring by consuming health products, including vitamins, I thought I’d write about it a little. For those, who don’t have the time to read the entire post, I’ll just say that a healthy person does not need additional vitamins from the jar/pharmacy (with one exception which I won’t get into here because then the introduction would stretch too long…as it already did)…

It is recommended for the people in our region to eat as many varied foods as possible – and generally it is possible. The menu should include fruits and vegetables that provide enough vitamins, minerals and fibres for the body (at some point in the future I will write separately about the latter).

In general, adults who eat varied foods don’t need to take additional “jar” vitamins. The only exception is vitamin D which is necessary for the calcium absorption in the intestine and first and foremost it affects the bone strength (taken together with calcium). I will write more specifically about vitamin D in my next post.

Measured consumption of other vitamin pills/multivitamins is neither good nor necessarily bad, but here, too, are exceptions – excess consumption of vitamin A may increase the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases, and during pregnancy it may increase the risk of birth defect. Too large vitamin C dosages may increase the risk of kidney stones.

Special circumstances!
In certain circumstances it is necessary to take additional vitamins even for healthy people. For instance, women planning pregnancy are recommended to start taking folic acid (vitamin B) already 1–3 months before getting pregnant and then continue until the 12th pregnancy week. At the same time it is important to ensure that vitamin B12 level is also sufficient in the body because this helps the folic acid to absorb.

In addition to pregnant people, the following groups are also endangered by vitamin deficiency:

  • vegans and vegetarians– (at risk mainly for lack of vitamin B12), although vegans/vegetarians can avoid vitamin deficiency when their diet is thought through and varied.
  • Alcoholics – they are mostly affected by lack of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, because alcohol inhibits its absorption and an alcoholic’s daily menu is usually not varied enough. They get a lot of energy from alcohol and thiamine, which is important for carbohydrates, is eliminated from the body (the same can happen with people who are losing weight, who don’t eat enough and whose energy comes only from the fat tissue). It can only take weeks to develop thiamine deficiency.
  • Elderly people who are living alone and people with smaller incomes whose menus are not varied enough.
  • In addition there are different diseases with which taking additional vitamins is necessary but I won’t get into those at the moment because this post is about people who are generally healthy.

In addition to campaigns for taking vitamins, every now then there are also advertisements calling people to analyse the vitamin levels in their blood but based on the current view it is useless for a healthy person. However, if there is suspected vitamin deficiency because of some illness, then the specific vitamin analysis may be conducted. For example, in case of osteoporosis, vitamin D analysis is done, and vitamin B12 level is analysed in case of changes in blood and when identifying causes for decline in cognitive capabilities, etc.

The results of analyses taken from people who are healthy and have no complaints are often ambiguous in showing whether the vitamin deficiency is real or not – blood is analysed and some levels may be below the average but at the same time in the tissue, where the vitamin is performing its function, its level may be sufficient. Genetic characteristics may also be at play. It has been found that a level which may be sufficient for some people, can mean a cause for identifying deficiency and changing the diet for others.

And the most important thing – no proper study has proved that administering additional vitamins to a healthy person (according to analyses) would give them any benefit and/or make them even healthier.

In conclusion it can be said that it is reasonable to only take vitamin D from the jar, either consistently (younger and older people) or during the darker months of the year (most adults) – more on this in the next post.

There is no need to buy additional vitamins, whether as a capsule, pill or a liquid, as a multivitamin, natural vitamin or personal vitamin. Spare the money and buy healthy and varied food instead.

Have a lovely spring!
Ingmar Lindström | General Practitioner