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Stress Does Not Increase Need for Vitamins

Several years ago the drug giant, Squibb, claimed that their vitamin pills called Theregran Stress Formula helped to relieve stress from the "complications of everyday life." They further claimed that taking the recommended daily allowance of vitamins would reduce the effects of psychological stress. The New York Attorney General, Robert Abrams, forced them to stop making such ridiculous claims.

There is no evidence that stress increases your needs for vitamins or that taking vitamins will help you handle stress. After you swallow a vitamin in your food or in your pill, it goes into your bloodstream and then into cells. The vitamin then combines with another chemical in a cell called an apoenzyme to form a complete enzyme that causes reactions to proceed in your body. All chemical reactions in your body require enzymes to make them go.

It doesn't make any difference whether the chemical reaction forms protein in your body or produces energy for your cells, all reactions must be started by enzymes. When chemical A is converted to chemical B and releases energy, a vitamin starts the reaction. Since enzymes only start chemical reactions and are not used up by them, they can be used over and over again and only minuscule amounts are needed from your diet.

All of the B vitamins form enzymes that convert food to energy. Thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin and folic acid are found in whole grains with carbohydrate. When you eat a whole grain, you take in carbohydrates that your body uses for energy and the vitamins that break them down.

Why do so many people think that vitamins prevent stress? In the 1930's, Hans Selye of McGill University in Montreal, reported that the adrenal glands contain the highest concentration in the body of vitamin C. The adrenal glands make cortisol from vitamin C. When a person is under stress, the adrenal glands make tremendous amounts of cortisol and the concentration of vitamin C in them drops. However, scientists have known for more than forty years that the levels of vitamin C in the adrenal glands are still high enough to continue to produce cortisol and that giving extra vitamin C will not increase production of cortisol.

Many entrepreneurs give you false information when they tell you that all vitamins help treat stress. They are misquoting one research project on one vitamin, and that research does not show that taking extra vitamins prevents or relieves stress.

Consumer Reports p174 March, 1986/ Hornig World Review Nutr. Diet 23:225-258,1975/ Contemporary Nutrition 9(7):July, 1984

Checked 5/13/17

May 12th, 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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