The supplement industry is rife with myths, largely based on vitamins’ dramatic effects on patients who have deficiencies. Here are some of the myths and facts about common vitamins:
Vitamin C and the Common Cold
Vitamin C’s influence on seasonal flu has proven to be underwhelming in human trials. Taken early, it can shorten your illness, but it won’t cure you. Taking mega doses of the vitamin can even make you feel worse. Nausea and diarrhea are common side effects. That said, there is a slight benefit to taking Vitamin C to shorten the length of illness, and consumers are willing to take it if it means less time confined to bed rest.
Beta Carotene: A Safe Cure for Cancer?
Beta carotene’s effects on cancer are nothing more than a fairy tale. Most vitamins won’t hurt you, but beta carotene is not among them. Smokers who take it suffer from a higher rate of lung cancer than smokers who don’t. It seems to have anti-inflammatory properties, but it can also harm your immune function, a startling effect if you’re being treated with chemotherapy.
Vitamin D for Depression, Arthritis, Cancer, Bone Health, and More
Only 6% of substances that produce effects in lab animals end up being useful for humans. Vitamin D has gained a lot of press and medical interest due to promising results from preliminary studies that have yet to be replicated. Vitamin D shows promise in many applications, but most of these areas warrant further study.
Vitamin B for Energy
Your favorite energy drink probably contains B vitamins, but for the most part it’s the caffeine content and ephedrine that energize you. Vitamin B deficiencies will leave you fatigued and unfocused, and supplementation will treat those effects. If you don’t have a deficiency, the nutrient will simply pass through you unused.
Dietary supplements can be irreplaceable in some situations. They are, however, not a cure-all, so a little skepticism will keep you and your budget safe. For supplement brands formulating vitamins, gels, and powders, it’s important to remember that more isn’t always better. Consumers are getting wise to this, and you can build your brand reputation using evidence-based claims.