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Are Vitamins Dangerous?

October 29th 2009

Are Vitamins Dangerous? - 29 October 2009

There has recently been some alarmist reporting in the media TVNZ and TV3 in particular that vitamins can be danerous to health. As I do have a role as Public Relations representative with the NZ Society of Naturopaths I felt an official reponse was called for. It is....

NZ Society of Naturopaths Media release - Vitamin dangers NZ Society of Naturopath Response

The NZSN of Naturopaths strongly opposes the suggestion by TV 3 that Vitamins are more dangerous than passive cigarette smoke. We are not aware of studies that support this claim.If we had been contacted for comment we would have been happy to do so.

Scientific research is always evolving. Recommendations Naturopaths made thirty years ago for example, to increase fruit and vegetable intake to help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease and other disease states were not at that time backed by scientific studies but on sound naturopathic principles. Nowadays scientific studies unquestionably support the link between higher vegetable and fruit intake and a decrease in the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Scientific studies currently are producing conflicting results regarding the use of vitamins and mineral supplementation. The NZ Society of Naturopaths sees this as part of the scientific process and not an end point. Professor Wiseman from the World Cancer Research Fund commented about the latest report on Cancer Prevention we simply do not know enough about what the effect (of vitamin supplements) will be for the general population to confidently predict the balance of risks and benefits http://www.wcrf-uk.org/audience/media/press_release.php?recid=77

In other words there is no conclusive evidence for the harm of vitamins. The NZ Society of Naturopaths believes that reports that vitamins are harmful are biased.

Naturopaths who are qualified and registered with the NZ Society of Naturopaths prescribe vitamins and minerals always according to the individuals need rather than to populations as a whole. Each individuals needs are considered holistically rather than on a disease basis. Naturopaths will select carefully the type and quality of supplement appropriate in much the same way that the type and quality of food is selected for each individual.

The NZ Society of Naturopaths has noted that the quality of the supplements used in scientific studies is rarely noted. Dietary supplements of inferior quality if used in scientific studies could arguably contain fillers and binders that may be detrimental to health; this could affect the results in that it may not be the vitamin but other substances that affect health.

As registered and qualified Naturopaths we have been trained to be aware of the dangers of overdosing on dietary supplements, and prescribe to avoid such dangers. We are aware that in NZ Medsafe and the NZ Food Standards Authority as regulatory bodies ensures that contents and labelling of supplements ensures the public is guided regarding safe doses.

The news item and television program may be detrimental to health by causing unnecessary alarm from the public. Many may indeed stop taking vitamins. This would undo much of the good work by the government in promoting vitamins intake to certain groups. For example if the B vitamin called folic acid is not taken prior to conception and during pregnancy, the risk of spina bifida increases. Incidentally Naturopaths recommended folic acid prior to conception and during pregnancy many years before the scientific studies backed the use of it to prevent birth defects.