Supplements could cause harm

New research studies are reiterating what family doctors have been saying consistently for years: in most cases, vitamin supplements simply aren’t needed, and can even cause harm. The old “healthy, balanced diet” is still the key, although many of us (judging by booming vitamin, supplement, and herbal remedy sales) still refuse to believe it.

Venerable vitamin E is the latest supplement to come under the research microscope, and the results don’t look good, according Dr. Lori Mosca of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Presenting data from a recent study at the Cardiovascular Conference in Florida last week, Dr. Mosca said that vitamin E should be consumed via a healthy, balanced diet.

The researchers looked at levels of intake of four antioxidants (vitamins E and C, beta carotene, and folic acid) in a test group of 54 postmenopausal women. They found that women whose vitamin E source was dietary displayed significant reductions in oxidation of “LDL” cholesterol, while those who took Vitamin E supplements increased their oxidation levels of LDL. LDL is the “bad” form of cholesterol that forms plaque on the inside of your arteries.

Researchers surmise that the ason for the difference lies in the fact that natural source Vitamin E found in food comes in a different chemical compound than that used in supplements. If you want to boost your intake of natural Vitamin E (which does show beneficial results in preventing heart disease) start eating more nuts, monounsaturated vegetable oils (as in olive), whole grains, and good old wheat germ, if you can stomach it. You’ll get better results and probably save some money in the process.