The People's Perspective on Medicine

Controversy over Vitamin Benefits and Risks Just Won’t Go Away

Q. I have read lately that vitamin and mineral supplements are a waste of money. I beg to differ. I am a firm believer in supplements.

Magnesium and vitamin B6 have prevented a recurrence of kidney stones. Magnesium also prevents leg cramps. If I skip a few days, the excruciating muscle pain reminds me to restart my supplements.

A. An editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Dec. 17, 2013) concluded that well nourished people don’t benefit from supplements and might even be harmed. It urged Americans to “stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.”

Your regimen of magnesium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), however, is supported in an article telling doctors how to help patients avoid recurrent kidney stones (Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, March, 2013).

A recent study on veterans found that vitamin E (2000 IU daily) was more effective than placebo or the prescription drug Namenda (memantine) in delaying the onset of dementia in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (JAMA, Jan. 1, 2014). The controversy over supplements is not likely to go away any time soon. We expect that further research will continue to find instances in which vitamins do not help, as well as others in which certain vitamins make a difference. To stay up to date as more research is reported, Sign up for our Email Newsletter.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Bless your cardiologist. I was put on flecainide for my irregular heartbeat. I have no valve problems and passed all of the other tests they performed at the hospital. I was also told to take 325 of aspirin and when I reach the age of 75 I automatically fit into the “CHADS” score to begin taking Coumadin. I hate the thought of this. Anyway, I have wondered lately about magnesium and this problem with my heart, and there was your comment! Thank you so much for posting it!

Amen to that. I just hope they never get the power to prevent those of us who take supplements from living our lives as we want to.

My cardiologist has suggested I take magnesium to calm an irregular heart rate. He believes my condition is “electrical” and says that magnesium seems to help the condition. All I know is I have not had one tachycardia episode since I started taking 400 mg daily 6 months ago, whereas I used to have them at least once a week.

As a curandera my training has been that vitamins are chemicals like drugs and should be avoided. Magnesium is not a vitamin: its a mineral, and is beneficial for many.
People’s Pharmacy response: Although it is better to get vitamins from food when we can, there may be some times that a supplement is needed, just as there could be times when an aspirin would be beneficial.

I have always wondered why testing for vitamin deficiencies are not included with routine physicals (such as sometimes now done for Vitamin D). Perhaps the cost is prohibitive.

With all of the differing opinions of taking vitamins or not taking vitamins….most I have had occasion to take always say take with meals….however, some of your readers speak of taking them all at bedtime… there any “best time” …..considering the current opinions, I suspect it depends upon what works!

I find valerian helps you to relax. But magnesium may as it is used for heart issues.

The medical establishment doesn’t make money off of healthy patients. Many people are not able to get all the nutrients they need from diet alone, and do benefit from supplements. People with Celiac, food allergies and other health conditions, may need to take various vitamins, minerals and other supplements, to make up for deficiency.
And as usual, when there is the dietary supplement bashing, follow the money trail. See who benefits from keeping people from taking them. Drug companies, doctors and hospitals make money by treating sick people, not healthy ones. I’ll keep taking my supplements as a less expensive and much less invasive health routine. I see my doctor yearly for my Celiac, allergies, thyroid disease and refill for the drug to treat it. She approves of me taking the vitamins and supplements I need.

Paul43, I realize you were probably talking about whole body relaxation but years ago my doctor told me to start taking daily Magnesium to relax my blood vessels to prevent migraines. If I miss even a day of taking Magnesium I can be assured of a migraine. At this point, I can’t ever imagine that I will stop taking Magnesium.
In a related topic there are many different types of Magnesium (the most common I’ve found being Magnesium citrate, Magnesium oxide, Magnesium orotate and Magnesium chloride). And then there are Magnesium sulfate (aka Epsom salt) and Magnesium hydroxide (aka Milk of Magnesia).
I believe Magnesium glycinate is supposed to be the one that is best absorbed by our bodies and the one suggested to correct a deficiency but I couldn’t find that one readily available where I am. All the different types have different concentrations and bio-availabilities. The Magnesium citrate or Magnesium oxide are what I normally take. Do a search online to find out more about the different types and which one(s) might be best for you.
Good luck!

I would like to hear more about benefits of vitamins to help sleep.
While I hate taking anything in a pill, I did finally take vit D (a hormone) after testing VERY low. This winter I’ve lived with someone who has been very sick with colds. Have not gotten any colds and I’m much happier… at least I think I am, after taking 3,000-4,000 mg per day. I think it’s helping me.
Thank you for this great web site!

I take magnesium 1200 mg ,calcium 1200 mg(I’m 75), fish oil 1000mg, D3 1000 IU every nite before bed. I sleep deeply and have since I started this in 2013. I no longer have leg cramps.

I would like to hear more about this subject especially if anyone has any info about Magnesium helping you to relax.

The healthcare powers that be seem to be afraid of anything that challenges their stranglehold on what’s acceptable for us to use as treatments.

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