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Should You Take a Daily Vitamin?

Should you take a vitamin? This is a very common question in my office. If you are planning on becoming pregnant, then the answer is a resounding “Yes! You should take folic acid supplements to reduce the risks of fetal open neural tube defects, and possibly autism.” If you have been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, such as Scurvy, then you need to replenish your body’s stores – in that case, with Vitamin C, to reverse a potentially serious disease. But what about the average person with a fairly good diet? What does the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say after studying vitamin supplements for the rest of us? Hold onto your hats… In a word: don’t. They don’t help to prevent heart disease, and they don’t prevent cancer – the two leading causes of death. In fact, people at risk for lung cancer who took extra beta-carotene (found in carrots) actually increased their rate of lung cancer! Even low dose calcium and vitamin D supplements in people at risk for bone fractures didn’t help to prevent those fractures. Though higher doses were not evaluated in this recent study, this conclusion is clearly at odds with our traditional instructions to our patients. I recommend a healthy diet. Vary the types of foods you eat; there are micronutrients which may be quite important in the food which may not be found in a bottled vitamin. Seek out foods that have been grown without pesticides, hormones, or growth factors. Find foods grown locally to help support your neighborhood economy – plus they tend to be fresher and more recently harvested. Find foods which have been grown ethically, such as free range chicken eggs. Drink plenty of water. Get regular exercise. Don’t forget to get enough sleep. Don’t abuse your body with too much of anything – such as alcohol, drugs, or stress. It’s a simple plan – but tried and true. Read more here:

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