12th Oct 2017

Do multivitamins and cold-fighting supplements work?

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Are multivitamins a waste of money?
Ryan Boutland

Significant research has been undertaken into vitamin supplements and their effects on the human lifespan. Are they worth the money or not?

Are multivitamins a waste of money?
There is no one right answer as individuals’ diets and metabolic deficiencies vary. There are countless varieties of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need and if you have a genuine balanced diet, you’ll be getting these vitamins and minerals from food. However, more health professionals are arguing that a balanced diet is an elusive concept today because our soils have been stripped of essential nutrients, thanks to modern farming practices.

Increasingly, doctors are detecting patients with low Vitamin D and B levels, as well as deficiencies in potassium, iron and magnesium – all elements the body needs to function properly. On the flipside, some brands of multivitamins do not have sufficient concentrations of nutrients to be useful. These junk tablets probably are a waste of money. And, taking too high a concentration of certain vitamins can even cause diseases, such as cancer.

Do Vitamin C and Echinacea fight colds?
As someone who swallows dozens of Vitamin C tablets while under the weather, I was surprised (and frustrated) to see that there is little evidence supporting these ‘cold fighters’.



Some studies have found that Echinacea might be able to help you to get over a cold by half a day and reduce some symptoms, but they’re outnumbered by studies that found no benefits. Additionally, there are three species of Echinacea used in pills and they can contain varying concentrations of flowers, stems or roots. Echinacea can also interfere with prescribed medicines.

Some studies on Vitamin C’s cold-fighting abilities have also found very little supporting evidence. They concluded it could possibly shorten a cold by a few hours if you take it while sick, but the vast majority found it to be no more beneficial than a placebo.

Other research has found that zinc lozenges can shorten the length of a cold by a whole day, especially if taken within 24 hours of symptoms appearing. However, zinc can also cause more serious ailments – if taken as a nasal spray it can even cause permanent loss of your sense of smell.

Vitamins are important. If your diet is limited, perhaps because you are a vegetarian, vegan, lactose or fructose intolerant, ask your doctor to request blood tests to reveal if you have a deficiency that could be corrected with supplements. And be aware that unless your doctor recommends it, you may end up with more health issues if you self-medicate with supplements.

What do you think?

Related articles:
Five best healthy eating articles
Eating well as you age
Dietary supplements putting Australians at serious risk





COMMENTS

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Ted Wards
13th Oct 2017
10:23am
If you use them regularly they do have benefits. For instance, I have had my stomach stapled and cannot eat red meat so I get very low in iron and I get the FGF tables that have iron and folic acid. When I am on them regularly I do gradually notice the benefits, one being my gums are no longer white but a healthy red/pink colour. My opinion is they don't do much in the short term because it takes time to build up the minerals etc to good levels. Ryan did you investigate long term usage? I also find you have not buy the cheap ones because of the fillers they contain. You really have to do your research on the different brands. Expensive also does not mean better.
Anonymous
13th Oct 2017
3:37pm
I'm told that iron tablets cause constipation. Have you found that to be the case?
Tib
13th Oct 2017
12:23pm
If you are deficient in certain vitamins and you take a supplement it helps. If your not deficient then it doesn't. If it's not in the soil then it's not in the vegetables and you don't get what you need. If it's a good multivitamin I don't see a problem.
Silverhead
13th Oct 2017
12:36pm
I am female,68, have Hashimotos,an auto-immune disease that attacks the thyroid. No Energy, cant sleep, no drive, big increase in weight after being 60 kgs until 55, now 73 kg. permanenent brain fog to list a few symptons. I have been to about 5 GPs, 1 thyroid specialist, and 1 Naturopath, I also do my own research. After 6 years not much improvement. Yesterday I went to an integrative doctor, I know 3 visits and tests not available on Medicare will cost me $1000, he has a terrific name and treatment plan. Now to get to vitamins - 2 years ago the Naturopath gave me some multi vitamins. I sourced from the maker 2 years supply. Moved on to my 5th doctor, and he said, you must take a good multivitamin, replied, "I do, but I dont feel as if they make any difference" He then commented, you may not methylate Folic Acid. My reply, "shall I get tested for it". He said No, I will just give you a prescription for the FOLATE". So I found a doctor who would test me to see if I have the MTHFR gene. On my visit and with a brief talk, he said, I am sure you have a faulty gene. Sure enough - pte Clinpath test $60, came thru that I had inherited a mutated gene from one of my parents, I passed this on to my daughter. What does this mean? Any vitamins with FOLIC ACID, also known as CYANCOBALAMIN my body will not use,whats worse ordinary blood tests will show that I am in the top range for B12 when I am actually very low. 40% of the population have one of these genes, and generally doctors dont know and understand MTHFR. Hashimotos means that I have to be gluten free. All bakeries add FOLIC acid to bread by law, which means that a big proportion of people who have MTHFR and eat bread with folic acid and take multi vitamins are not doing their health any good. Doctors make sure pregnant women take FOLIC ACID so as to ensure the baby does not have neurol defects, but they dont test the women for MTHFR. If you have MTHFR, you are likely to have chronic fatigue, learning difficulties, relationship problems, thyroid problems, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, difficult births, babies with neurol problems and many more. My point is, do not think that taking a multi vitamin is necessarily good for you.
The synthethic form of B12 is synthetic and cheap and a good reason for manufacturers to put it in. You only have to see the prefix, CYAN - cyanide. Looks up MTHFR, unfortunately its a minefield. I would say I am lucky at 68, discovering this. Just having 1 dodgy gene is not a problem now I know, some people have a dodgy gene from each parent and then it really gets complicated. Just be very careful in thinking you are healthy with a multi vitamin when it has synthetic FOLIC ACID, oh I forgot, if you have depression enough to take anti depressants, get yourself checked for MTHFR. Many people who have anxiety have been prescribed FOLATE and have stopped taking anti depressants because they are now on the right FOLATE. If you follow this up, and you have a dodgy gene, get a doctor who understands MTHFR and let him guide you with what to take........its a fine line and should be supervised. I defintely feel better with the right FOLATE, now I have to get my latest practioner to sort out my thryoid that has been mismanaged by so many medical professionals. If you look up MTHFR be careful, it can take up a lot of your time. This is not meant to panic you, but only 60 percent of the population are safe on FOLIC ACID in bread and Chemist multi vitamins.

13th Oct 2017
3:34pm
"As someone who swallows dozens of Vitamin C tablets while under the weather, I was surprised (and frustrated) to see that there is little evidence supporting these ‘cold fighters’."

My kidney specialist Dr Brian Nankivell's PhD found that Vitamin C is a major cause of renal failure (if taken in high dosages)!
George
13th Oct 2017
5:46pm
Also, there is research in 2004 which shows conclusively that high dose of Vitamin C (daily over 1,000 mg) causes / significantly increases Osteoarthritis of the knees. However, all quiet since then, except individual cases of people confirming it on internet, as drug companies don't want such research.
KSS
13th Oct 2017
5:17pm
Only if there is a deficiency. Otherwise you might as well chuck them straight down the toilet since that's where they will end up anyway.

And in some cases overdosing on vitamins and minerals in supplement form can be dangerous. Even those branded 'natural'. Just remember arsenic and belladonna are 'natural' too.
Charlie
13th Oct 2017
5:49pm
Haven't had a cold since I retired 10 years ago. before that I had two every year.
So its the prescription pain medications preventing it?
It's the three vitamin pills a week I am taking?
Its not being in an office with other people?
Its getting more sleep?
It's the flu shots working on everything?
I was allergic to work?
KSS
13th Oct 2017
10:24pm
Probably more to do with the more limited exposure you have to the viruses, consider public transport with people coughing and sneezing all over you, offices with people who should be home sick, airconditioning recycling the viruses in the air system.

Flu shots are great but do not protect against the cold virus. They are not the same thing at all.

Yes getting enough sleep improves the immune system. Sleep deprivation lowers it.
hmmm
14th Oct 2017
9:46am
did you per chance take public transport to work, Charlie.
Hard to imagine a more congested atmosphere than a bus.
Polly
13th Oct 2017
11:13pm
Research is indeed showing that supplementing the body with antioxidants can actually be harmful. A new approach to health care is to 'activate' the body's own production of antioxidant enzymes ..... much safer and more effective at reducing the cellular damage that occurs over time. This damage can result in such issues as arthritis, dementia, cancer and various autoimmune and degenerative conditions.
This new field of therapeutic and preventative medicine, Nutrigenomics, is the way of the future. For more information email me (paulamichele_6@yahoo.com)
MD
15th Oct 2017
5:09pm
Vitamins hmm, although I'm not a dietitian I consider vitamin supplements suss to say the least. If your quack recommends em and you feel the need then do it - they may well have a placebo effect & put your mind at rest if you're convinced that's what it takes to give you that b-b-bounce !
To be sure, most supermarket's "fresh" produce is equally suss as regards nutritional value - maybe something to do with 'brix' count, whatever. Prior to consulting either a quak or Dr Google, what people should ask themselves is whether (or not) they have a BALANCED diet, ie, vege's, fruit, nuts, meat - red & white - and etc, relative to their daily intake of alcohol, fast food, packaged meals (fresh, frozen or dehydrated), confectionery, sweetmeats, & etc, & etc. Most problems relative to vitamin deficiency are the result of an unsatisfactory diet.
BELIEVE the adage - 'you are what you eat'. Eat crap, inevitably then you're bound to feel crappy, look crappy and any amount of supplementary pills are strictly crap for dills.
If we could only live by the dictum "Everything in moderation, including moderation" particularly with reference to food intake - if only - would that life were that simple eh ?


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