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We all need vitamins to be heathy and stay alive, but Diana and I do not take vitamin pills. We get our vitamins from the food that we eat, and nobody has shown that more is better than just meeting your needs. I have reported on studies that show that taking large doses of vitamin A increases risk for lung cancer in smokers and taking large doses of vitamin E increases risk for colon cancer. A study in the British journal Lancet shows that taking large doses of antioxidant vitamins does not prevent heart attacks.

Almost 21,000 people who had serious arteriosclerosis, including heart attacks and severe artery blockage, were put on three antioxidant vitamins: 600 mg of vitamin E, 250 mg of vitamin C and 20 mg of beta carotene. Over a five years period, there was no difference between the placebo group and those who took large doses of vitamins in death rate, heart attacks or anything else. This bothers a lot of people because experiments show that before the bad LDL cholesterol can form plaques in arteries, it must first be converted to oxidized LDL by oxidants in your bloodstream.

Three antioxidant vitamins have been shown in the test tube, to prevent the bad LDL cholesterol from being converted to oxidized LDL and therefore the vitamin should help prevent heart attacks. But they don't. This is at least the fifth study showing that taking large doses of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E does not prevent heart attacks. The editorial in the same issue of the Lancet states that heart attacks are prevented by avoiding smoking, reducing calories, saturated fat, sugar, flour and refined carbohydrates, increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts, and omega-3 fatty acids in whole grains and fish, exercising, and taking antibiotics to treat chlamydia. Also you prevent heart attacks by taking aspirin, beta blockers, Ace inhibitor blood pressure medications, and drugs to lower cholesterol.

Vitamins are parts of enzymes that make reactions go in your body. When you take a vitamin, it goes into your cells and combines with an apoenzyme in your cell to make a whole enzyme that converts chemical A to chemical B to release energy. It is true that lack of the vitamins B12, folic acid or pyridoxine causes heart attacks, but nobody has shown that taking more is better than meeting your needs,ot because vitamins as enzymes only start chemical reactions in your body. They are not used up in large amounts and when you meet your needs for vitamins, more is not healthier.

Instead of trying to take lots of pills, try to eat a diet that is loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds, seafood ans perhaps skim milk dairy products, and you will get all the nutrients your body needs. Possible exceptions: If you don't get outdoors in the sun frequently or if your skin is dark, you may need to take vitamin D; and if you are a strict vegetarian, you need a source of B12.

1) Lancet, July 6, 2002

2) Two articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association, June 26, 2002.

Checked 8/9/05

May 21st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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