I´m not a big fan of taking multi-vitamin pills and usually don´t recommend my patients or clients to take them. I think most of the time if you eat properly you will get all your vitamins necessary from there. A recent study by the Food Standards Agency showed that the average Briton gets all of his recommended daily allowance of every dietary vitamin from their normal food and drink(1). And we all know how the Brits eat……; if they are able to get their daily allowance from their normal diet, I think the rest of us also can.
And the thing with vitamins is that if you take too much, two things can happen. One, your body doesn´t store them, it´s just pisses them away. So, you are basically throwing your money down the toilet. Or two, you can harm yourself – look at what a recent systematic study on vitamins and minerals said ¨We found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention [of diseases of any kind]. Beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A. Antioxidant supplements need to be considered as medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing¨(2,3)!!! Did you all see the increase mortality??? That means you die earlier…. the opposite of why most people take vitamins and minerals.
But, if you had to take one vitamin supplement then I would recommend that supplement to be vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient and is one of the 24 micronutrients critical to human survival. It is found naturally in fish and eggs and is sometimes added to dairy products, but the sun is the major natural source of nutrient. The body produces vitamin D from cholesterol (https://sports-diet-pain.com/2013/11/03/is-saturated-fat-and-cholesterol-really-that-bad/), provided it receives adequate amounts of UV light from sun exposure(2,5). However, there are only sufficient amounts of UV light coming from the sun when the UV index is 3 or higher. And in latitudes between 42.3 – 55 there is less amount of UV, especially in winter(9-10). Also, weather patterns that reduce solar exposure such as clouds or darkness leads to less amount of UV. So, people who live in cities such as Brussels or Dortmund (2 cities where I have lived) are more vulnerable to deficiencies in vitamin D, because the sun never comes out there ;). It is also almost impossible to overdose with vitamin D. The recommend daily allowance is between 400-800IU/day, but this is probably too low for adults. The safe upper limit in the USA is 2.000Iu/day and 4000IU/day in Canada(8-11). To intoxicate yourself you would need probably more than an excess of 20.000IU/day!! So we can say it´s pretty safe.
Furthermore, interest in vitamin D supplementation is increasing in response to studies indicating that vitamin D deficiency exists in athletic populations. Vitamin D does about a million and one things in the body but one thing it is strongly related to is muscular function and performance (7). As well, Vitamin D regulates genes all over the body, and controls inflammation and immune system function. Of more relevance to athletes is that Vitamin D status is tied to muscular function and Vitamin D affects the expression of a number of genes involved in muscular function and performance; all issues relevant to athletes.
Why do I recommend vitamin D? Because there is sufficient evidence that it COULD help with the following:
- Risk of falls
- Pain – there is a correlation between low vitamin D and musculoskeletal pain. This correlation might not mean anything, but there is a good chance that it does.
- Cardiovascular disease risk
- Colorectal cancer risk
- Bone fracture risk
- Blood pressure
- Parathroid hormone. This one is proven!!
- Fat loss
- Risk of Multiple Sclerosis. In southern countries there are very few cases of MS compared to northern countries. The hypothesis being that there is less sunlight (= vitamin D).
- Sleep quality
- And the list goes on……(4-11)
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, it is also impossible to produce Vitamin D when you have sunscreen on. So, now we are starting to see that a lot of southern countries are also starting to have a deficiency in Vitamin D due to the overuse of sunscreen. Now, this doesn´t mean that sunscreen is bad or that I don´t recommend it, of course it´s good and I recommend it, but just saying, that a little direct sun exposure once in a while is not that bad either.
So in conclusion, I think vitamin D is pretty safe, it is difficult to intoxicate yourself with it and it CAN help with a lot of problems we face today. In any case, you should contact your doctor before taking any kind of supplementation.
I will now just give the latitude of 4 cities where I have lived.
- Madrid: 40.25
- New York City 40.42
- Brussels 50.50
- Dortmund 51.30
And a video that talks about vitamin D: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq1t9WqOD-0
- Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud C, Antioxidant supplements to prevent mortality, The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2013
- Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C, Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012
- Heany R, Garland F-C, French C, Baggerly L, Heney Robert. Vitamin D Supplement Doses and Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D in the Range Associated with Cancer Prevention. International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment.2011
- Leventis P, Kiely. W.P.D..The tolerability and biochemical effects of high‐dose bolus vitamin D2 and D3 supplementation in patients with vitamin D insufficiency. Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 2009, Vol. 38, No. 2 , Pages 149-153
- Angeline ME, Gee AO, Shindle M, Warren RF, Rodeo SA. The effects of vitamin D deficiency in athletes. Am J Soports Med.2013 Feb;41(2):461-4.
- Hatcock J, Shao A, Vieth R, Risk assessment for vitamin D. 2007 American Society for Clinical Nutrition
- Holick MF. The vitamin D epidemic and its health consequences. J Nutr. 2005 Nov;135(11):2739S-48S
- Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr.2008 Apr;87(4)
- Holick MF. Sunlight and Vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseas, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr.2004 Dec; 80(6 Suppl):1778S-88S.
- Matsuoka LY, Ide L, Wortsman J, MacLaughlin JA, Holick MF. Sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis. J Clin Endocrino Metal 1987 Jun; 64(6):1165-8)
- Overcoming MS (healthyenergys4life.com)
- The problem with taking too many vitamins (themexicanpost.wordpress.com)
- The problem with taking too many vitamins (bbc.co.uk)
- Low Vitamin D Symptoms (mademan.com)