Indiscriminately taking vitamins or dietary supplements is at best useless, at worst dangerous, according to a new study.
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According to the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), there is “no evidence” that taking dietary supplements and vitamins can help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer in healthy adults.
Atlantico: In 2021, Americans spent nearly $50 billion on vitamins and dietary supplements, lured by supposedly positive health effects. Yet, based on a systematic review of 84 studies, new guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force state that there is “no evidence” that taking such supplements can help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer in healthy adults. What does this study remind you of?
Christopher de Jaeger: This study is neither the first nor the last on the subject and I completely associate myself with this reality. Indiscriminate intake of vitamins or dietary supplements is at best useless, at worst dangerous. Moreover, we have seen that people who take vitamins E or A had a greater chance of developing certain diseases, such as cancer.
Take the example of selenium involved in the fight against free radicals. These are very reactive small molecules involved in oxidative stress which is one of the strong mechanisms of senescence. We know that this ability to fight against free radicals is linked to a complex chain of molecules (vitamins, enzymes). A first molecule will recover a free radical, which will then pass it to a vitamin, then to another molecule… There is therefore a coherent chain which can be blocked by a deficiency or an excess. However, when you take vitamins or polyvitamins, in the event of deficiencies, you cannot necessarily correct them. If you have an excess of selenium and you take more of it, you will block your biological system, which is very fragile. It is for this reason that indiscriminate intake of a number of vitamins can be harmful.
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The systems for fighting against free radicals can actually involve cardiovascular diseases, but also cancer pathologies… Contrary to the primary impressions shared by many people, taking vitamins cannot only do good.
While taking dietary supplements is the subject of much debate, do you see any limitations to this study?
Where this study is incomplete is that if trace elements and vitamins are taken under the right conditions and under control, the results can be astonishing. Like a car, the human body must be maintained on a regular basis. If a vehicle has enough engine oil, there is no need to add more.
But this study is also incomplete on other points. It should highlight the fact that if taking a substance like vitamins C or D is not useful for people who do not lack it, it actually requires, for those who need it, a real medical monitoring. Taking vitamins or other substances must meet medical diagnostic and monitoring criteria and not just respond to the advice of friends, however benevolent they may be.
Take the example of vitamin D. It is already not a vitamin but a steroid hormone. This semantic error is grotesque. But it makes sense in a country that doesn’t like hormones and prefers to call a hormone a vitamin so that people accept it more easily and take it, if needed… Moreover, this hormone, or vitamin, does not play not just on the bones, as is often led to think. It is involved in certain cancers, in muscle metabolism, at the immune level, at the brain level… Nobody is really able to notice its need apart from a dosage in the blood. But you should know that too high a dose leads to major neurological complications, even loss of consciousness, kidney failure which requires resuscitation. For people who really need vitamin D, a medical evaluation is therefore absolutely necessary and should take place every two months. However, the French population is 95% deficient in vitamin D!
In short, in our Western countries, the disease is very well codified and the professionals are very competent. However, the field of health is left to magazines, friends, vitamin sellers… The market weighs hundreds of billions without any control and no one realizes the health risk that this entails.
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