For the average healthy American, there's simply not enough evidence to tell if taking vitamins is a good or bad idea, said Dr. J. Michael McGinnis of the Institute of Medicine, who led the NIH panel's review.
"We don't know a great deal," he said, calling for more rigorous research.
Moreover, McGinnis added, "The product with which we're dealing is virtually unregulated," meaning there are even questions about how the bottles' labels convey what's really inside.
Vitamins and minerals, often packaged together, are the most-used dietary supplements, and widely assumed to be safe. After all, vitamins naturally occur in some of the healthiest foods, and vitamin deficiencies have been known to be dangerous since scurvy's link to a lack of fruits and vegetables was discovered centuries ago.
Concern arises mainly with super doses that exceed the government's "recommended daily amount," or RDA. Between 1 percent and 11 percent of supplement users may be exceeding the upper limits set for certain nutrients, if they add together their doses from pills and their diets, said Cornell University nutritionist Patsy Brannon.
Leading her list: Too much niacin can damage the liver. Among other examples, too much vitamin A can cause birth defects, and too much vitamin E can cause bleeding problems.
Some vitamins also can interact dangerously with medications, and doctors should ask their patients what they take, the panel said.
But "for millions of Americans who struggle with diet and nutrition, a daily multivitamin provides a safe, affordable, and reliable means of filling nutrition gaps and promoting overall good health," added Council for Responsible Nutrition president Steven Mister.
Courtesy of AP
Bonnie - We are in support of these comments. The average consumer should think twice before making their own decisions on what vitamins and minerals they should be taking. That is the job for an expert such as myself. With 20 years of clinical experience, I know that an individualized vitamin and mineral regimen prescribed by an expert should be required for most Americans. It is impossible to get certain crucial nutrients based upon current dietary and lifestyle habits, even if healthy. Although, a proper nutrient regmien should be based upon genetic and family history, lifestyle, and health related symptoms. This is what a licensed expert such as myself is trained to do. I do not know if more federal oversight is going to do the trick, as they are up to their ears already with drugs. There should be a continued effort to alert consumers that they should seek the advice of a licensed health professional before self-prescribing.