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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Most People Need Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

Here's a phrase that the quack supplement industry hates: "Your body doesn't absorb extra vitamins. All you get from taking vitamin supplements is expensive urine." There are many web pages devoted to "debunking" this as a myth. What none of them bother to mention was that the phrase came about to combat the supplement quacks who were pushing megadoses of vitamins as "cures" for all what ails ya. They were truly ripoffs.

After the megadose crazy faded, the antioxidant fad began. Large doses of Vitamins A and E were supposed to protect from heart disease and cancer. Except that they don't.

You do need some vitamins, of course. Getting the RDA of all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients is essential. A good diet would provide those, if only more Americans had good diet habits. Since most don't an ordinary multi-vitamin pill couldn't hurt.

Are there any supplements you should take? Yes. As I've posted many times, you probably aren't getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Dr. Marc Siegel backs me up on this in an article from Fox News.

Vitamin D
A lack of vitamin D is associated with heart disease, muscle problems, a loss of mental acuity and fertility problems, Siegel said.

“Everybody should consider taking a vitamin D supplement,” Siegel said. “You need at least 400 international units per day. You should have your doctor check your levels (through a blood test).”

Siegel said proton pump inhibitors (medicines like Nexium or Protonix), which treat acid reflux symptoms, may block the body's absorption of vitamins B12 and D, so anyone on those medicines should have their levels checked regularly. ...

You should take 500 to 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day, especially if you are a post-menopausal female, Siegel said. Calcium is essential for keeping bones strong and preventing them from breaking.

Women should continue to get their calcium from outside sources, even if they are taking a supplement, Siegel said.

Strict vegans may be at risk for low levels of vitamin B12 so that's one additional supplement worth taking by them.

You can find additional confirmation of the vitamin myth in Tara Parker-Pope's article, Vitamin Pills: A False Hope? in The New York Times.

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