It’s hard to think of any harmful effects or downsides vitamins that vitamins could have, since vitamins are an essential part of our bodies’ healthy functioning. Knowing that the multivitamin industry is a billion-dollar industry, and over half of U.S. adults consume some kind of vitamin or supplement, are there any risks of daily vitamin use? Do vitamins actually help us get healthier?
There are many reasons that people take vitamins and other health supplements. Some take vitamins to account for deficiencies in their diets, such as b12, which is harder to get when eating plant-based, while others take them to specifically lower their risk for diseases and illness. Whatever someone’s reason for taking vitamins, it’s safe to say that everyone does consume them with the belief that not only are they beneficial, but safe as well. In fact, a 2015 CRN consumer study on dietary supplements reported that 84 percent of Americans expressed confidence in not only the overall safety of supplements but in their quality and effectiveness as well.
However, there is little evidence to actually support the level of effectiveness of daily vitamins in healthy individuals. Much research is done, and will likely continue to be done, into the matter.
One potential risk of taking daily vitamins is the assumption that these supplements will be all that’s needed to be healthy. With that assumption, someone’s diet can be poor, exercise can lack, and if this is the case, then no, vitamins won’t help and could cause harm in the false assumption.
Additionally, there are side effects with some daily vitamins, like constipation, diarrhea, and upset stomach. Headaches, insomnia, nosebleeds, and even gout can be direct side effects.
Another risk of daily vitamins is the potential interactions they can have with necessary medication. Vitamin K, for example, can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners, while beta-carotene and vitamin A can increase the risk of lung cancer.
With all these risks and the lack of evidence of benefits, are there any known benefits of daily vitamins then?
There are some diets, like plant-based, that lack vitamin-rich food, creating a bigger challenge to get the necessary daily values. B12, as previously mentioned, is one of those vitamins. B12 is helpful for the nerves and blood cells and works with iron to prevent anemia. Omegas are also hard to get when avoiding animal products, so these supplements have shown benefits in that way as well.
Additionally, vitamins like zinc help with immune system functioning, and are helpful during peak times of illness.