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Vitamins: Harmful Or Helpful?

October 24, 2011, 6:11 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Vitamins: Harmful Or Helpful?
SIOUX FALLS, SD - If you're among the millions of American women who pop a vitamin or supplement every day hoping to improve their health, you may be interested in results of a new study.  It suggests vitamins actually do your health more harm than good.

Getting the proper nutrition from the food you eat can be a challenge in today's fast-paced world. That's why many people turn to vitamins.

"I just take one because I thought that's what you do at my age," Sheri Schmitt said.

Schmitt is not alone. In fact, about half of all Americans take vitamins and other dietary supplements. But a new study involving nearly 39,000 older women showed those who took certain supplements including multivitamins, folic acid and iron on a regular basis had higher death rates.

"I don't think it means that vitamins are dangerous, per se. I just don't think the safety and efficacy has been proven for most of the supplements that we have," Sanford Dr. Janell Simpkins said.

Regardless of how old you are or how many vitamins you take, Simpkins says it's important to get enough essential vitamins. But that the best way to get them is not through a pill, but through the foods you eat.

"We don't know if you take certain vitamins as a pill form versus in a diet if it works as well or is as safe," Simpkins said.

Doctors say vitamins have their place, especially calcium, which the study found to have a positive impact.

"As women age, they have an increased need for calcium, and women who fall and have hip fractures have a higher mortality rate," Simpkins said.

Simpkins also adds that just because something is labeled as natural doesn't necessarily make it safe. That's one reason why Schmitt is now re-examining the vitamins she takes.

"Recently I just started the Vitamin D tablet, which is specific in helping to increase the absorption of calcium, so I may lean more towards being more specific with my vitamins instead of taking a multivitamin," Schmitt said.

Despite these findings, doctors stress that vitamins and supplements are important for women at certain stages in their lives, such as during pregnancy and after menopause.

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