Vitamins and Women: What the News Reports Didn't Tell You
Chances are you saw the news reports yesterday about a new study that showed multivitamins cause higher mortality rates in older women. The Archives of Internal Medicine released a study that followed about 40,000 women ages 55 to 69 for 19 years and found that taking multivitamins was linked to a 2.4% increase in death for older women.
The offending vitamins they cited include iron, vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, and copper. All of the nutrients taken in the study were “self-reported” so we don’t know the doses, brands, quality, or even how regularly the nutrients were taken. Additionally the study didn't account for what nutrients were taken in combination with each other. Given the lack of this critical information, drawing conclusions based on this type of study is ridiculous.
But perhaps what’s most dangerous is what the study findings leave out:
• There isn't a woman over 55 on this planet that should be taking iron. When it’s taken when it’s not needed, iron acts as a pro-oxidant causing oxidative stress in your body. Plus, once women are no longer having their periods, iron levels can build up to toxic levels.
• As with iron, you need to be careful with copper. Any good multivitamin should have less than the RDA of copper since copper can also act as a pro-oxidant. The bottom line is we get enough copper from water going through mostly copper pipes.
• There are no downsides to taking magnesium—only enormous benefits. Magnesium helps your blood pressure, bones, immune system, blood sugar, improves recovery from a heart attack, and more. You should be taking 500 mg daily.
• There are also no downsides to taking vitamins B6 and folic acid. You need these vital nutrients to support healthy nerves, to detoxify harmful homocysteine, to strengthen your heart muscles, and more.
• As for zinc, as long as you are not taking more than 100 mg per day, there is no downside. More than this amount can be counterproductive to the immune system.
Finally, and most importantly, not taking vitamins is harmful. All the environmental toxicity, insecticides, pesticides, heavy metals, and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs deplete critical nutrients in the body. Aspirin for example depletes folic acid, and statins deplete CoQ10. In fact, the reason why I just developed multinutrient formulas for both men and women is to give you “health insurance” to neutralize the effects of poor nutrition or a toxic environment.
It’s also quite interesting to me that this study was released at the same time that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking to tighten up regulation on the supplement industry in the US.
But regardless of the motivation for this study’s release, what do these findings mean for you? Number one, it means a healthy dose of caution is needed. You can’t just grab any multivitamin off the store shelf and assume that it’s safe since nutrients like iron as well as copper and zinc in high doses can be problematic.
I can assure you that my nutrient recommendations are completely safe and based on the newest, most up-to-date research. You can find them all on my website. They’re the same nutrients I take every day, and so does my wife Jan.
Now it’s your turn: Do you take a multivitamin or multinutrient formula?
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Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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