Consuming Vitamins and Fortified Foods May Be Too Much of a Good Thing

Roshni L. RountreeHoward University News Service

The dietary supplements millions of women across the nation depend on to fight against illness have the potential to cause harm if they are consumed in combination with some foods common in everyday diets.

Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietician in Washington, D.C., advises her clients to take a multivitamin but to avoid the combination of a supplement and fortified foods which have been enhanced with vitamins and minerals.

As an example, Tallmadge said, drinking vitamin water fortified with calcium and consuming foods naturally rich in calcium such as diary products can lead to interference with the body’s absorption of other minerals.

When there is too much calcium, other minerals like zinc and iron found in multivitamin supplements compete against each other. In this case, the body will not make the best use of one of the minerals due to the excessive amount of its competitor.

Another combination to be wary of is consuming multivitamins rich in Vitamin A while consuming foods rich in beta carotene.

A report published in May 2006 by the National Institutes of Health found that beta-carotene increased the risk of illness in healthy women and in women with already elevated health threats.

The body breaks beta carotene, which gives foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes their orange coloring, into Vitamin A. According to the NIH report, beta carotene in supplements caused an increase risk of stroke in healthy women. It also increased the risk of cardiovascular disease in women who smoke.

Vitamin A only, according to the report, created no increased risk of illness. However, in combination with beta carotene, Vitamin A resulted in increased deaths caused by lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The report acknowledged the evidence that calcium and Vitamin D produce stronger bones in women. Yet, it found that the intake of these two, above their approved maximum levels, may increase the risk of kidney stones.

Five years ago, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 25 to 41% of women in the US. take a multivitamin at least four times a week.

Women who take multivitamins have come to their own conclusions about the supplements. Gloria Outlaw, 71, of Maryland, said she has been using a multivitamin since her mid-40s.

Outlaw uses a daily multivitamin specially made for women. She began to include the supplement in her diet because she hoped it would provide the nutrients that she was not receiving from her food.

“I hope that taking this multivitamin will give me a longer lifespan and that my body will be strong enough to fight off disease that may be detrimental to my health,” Outlaw said. She said she would switch to another supplement if she discovered that the one she takes poses a threat to her health.

Though Outlaw is not dependent on her multivitamin, some women rely on the supplements to do more than fill in the gaps from their diets. Some women take a the supplements to fight against an illness they currently have.

Donna Waters, 45, has an autoimmune disease known as lupus, an illness in which the immune system loses its ability to differentiate between foreign substances and its own cell tissue. Therefore, it tends to fight itself.

Because of her disease, she depends on a multivitamin in order to better the abilities of her immune system.

“I take Centrum – Advanced Formula because I have lupus and with my weak immune system, doctors recommended a multivitamin,” said Waters.

Waters explained that she could not see or feel a physical change within herself but her regular check-ups with her physician reveal levels of normalcy with her immune system.

“I think it’s essential to take a multivitamin, especially in my case, but also just to keep up good health,” Waters said.

Contact the writer: R0813Qt@aol.com

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