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Debunking Myths about Vitamin Supplements: Separating Fact from Fiction

Debunking Myths about Vitamin Supplements: Separating Fact from Fiction

Healthcare | Aug, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic led to rising concerns about health and safety, which is contributing to the growth of vitamin supplements market. However, some myths surrounding vitamin supplements might hamper the market growth during the coming years.

The use of dietary supplements has reached an all-time high, contributing to the tremendous growth of the nutritional supplements industry in over two decades, with a 12.1% increase in 2020. The trajectory is expected to continue as people are paying more attention to their physical appearance and health. While taking the dietary supplements under the right circumstances and in adequate quantities can help support health and provide the body with nutrients, decades of research show little evidence to support their efficacy.


Let us debunk the popular myths related to the use of dietary supplements to separate fact from fiction. 


Myth #1: Nutritional Supplements are Regulated

While some types of dietary supplements provide vital nutrients to the body, others may induce some side effects and cause severe health risks. Dietary supplements are not regulated as drugs, rather as food items, but the supplement might have a strong biological impact that may conflict with the medical condition that consumer might have. Only the manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure the safety of products. Unlike drugs, supplements are not permitted to be marketed for the purpose of treating, diagnosing, preventing, and curing diseases, so their use must be regulated by health practitioners. 


Myth #2: Supplements with Natural Ingredients are Safe 

Supplement companies often like to brand their products as natural or organic to attract people seeking a holistic solution for their health. However, there are plenty of natural things that can cause more damage to the body rather than doing good. Many dietary supplements have been recalled from the market as the “natural ingredients” caused harmful effects on the body. For instance, ephedra, a plant-based ingredient extensively used in weight-loss supplements was banned as it caused severe complications and led to death in some cases. Sometimes marketers make false claims about the ingredients being natural or organic, while they are present in very small quantities in the product. According to a study published in the journal of Neurology Clinical Practice, 75% of declared quantities on the product label are inaccurate, exposing the consumer to take almost four times the dosage of ingredients mentioned on the supplements.


Myth #3: Probiotics Benefit Everyone

Probiotic supplements are known to boost digestive health, but “good bacteria” might not benefit everyone. When people consume the standard probiotic bacterial strains, their gut becomes resistant to the bacteria as the microorganisms fail to proliferate whereas, for others, the bacteria flourishes in the gut. Therefore, not everyone can benefit from probiotic drinks, that are widely advertised for ensuring gut health. However, tailoring probiotic treatment as per the type of microbes already present in the gut and considering other factors can provide the maximum benefits. Besides, some studies suggest that probiotics could negatively impact the health of individuals who take antibiotics so, the “one-for-all” approach does not suit the probiotic requirements.


Myth #4: Supplements Can Replace Diet Requirements

While supplements can be beneficial to fulfill the nutritional requirements, but they cannot replicate all the nutrients and benefits of whole foods. Fresh and natural foods pack a whole lot of vitamins and minerals in the perfect balance necessary for good health. But many people are trying to make up for nutrients by popping pills to achieve adequate nutrition from food. According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, around 75% of adults in the USA take a dietary supplement of some kind. Research studies suggest that completing nutritional requirements from food rather than taking supplements is a holistic way to achieve optimal wellness.


Myth #5: You cannot Overdose on Nutritional Supplements

Although directions for safe dosing are listed on the packaging of supplements, many consumers tend to take more than the recommended amount. Intake of high dosages of vitamins can cause issues and potentially dangerous side effects. For instance, high dosages of vitamin B6 can lead to irreversible nerve damage, too much vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, and excessive niacin intake can result in high blood pressure. Although supplemental overdosage induced fatalities are rare, caution should always be taken while consuming any dietary supplement.


Myth #6: Supplements are Unnecessary

Dietary supplements may not be necessary for healthy people or those who are mindful of their diet, but these are beneficial for certain population. For instance, pregnant or lactating women might require calcium, folic acid, and Vitamin D supplements and people who are on a calorie-restricted diet may benefit from multivitamin supplements. People with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, thyroid, or cardiovascular-related issues opt for an herbal or specific dietary supplement to manage their conditions.


Myth #7: Traditional Medicines Used Since Ancient Times must Work 

Some herbs and medicinal plants have been used for thousands of years but there is no evidence to support their effectiveness. If any traditional medicine provides instant relief but proves to be harmful over the years, then its usage as a supplement should be condemned. In some cases, the administration of potent herbs might cause nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, etc. Besides, the consumption of herbs without adequate knowledge or consultation from an experienced practitioner can be quite unsafe.  


Myth #8: Supplements do not Interact with Medications

Whether one is taking antibiotic supplements to treat a bacterial infection or an anti-coagulating medicine for cardiovascular problems, supplements can create interference in bodily functions or lead to life-threatening effects. Therefore, one should always take consultation from healthcare practitioner before opting for supplements. Usually, people who are recommended to take supplements along with medications are advised to wait for a certain period (minimum of two hours) between the two doses.  


Myth #9: Taking Vitamins on an Empty Stomach is Better

Supplements are concentrated forms of nutrient compounds packed in a pill, tablet, liquid concoction, powder, or juice. Many vitamins are water-soluble, so they are easily absorbed by the body regardless of whether the tummy is empty or full. However, it is best to take fat-soluble vitamins after having a little food otherwise taking a high dose of vitamins on empty stomach can make one nauseous. 


Myth #9: Supplements can Help to Regain Energy

Feeling low or tired might not be the signs of inadequate nutrition as low energy or metabolism can result from a variety of factors such as sedentary lifestyle, stress, sleep disorders, mental health issues, etc. Thus, self-treatment by taking vitamin or iron supplements is not an option to boost energy levels. Only a certified medical practitioner can help in examining the underlying cause for lack of energy and recommend the appropriate treatment for the same.


Myth #10: Taking a Multivitamin is Better than Opting for Individual Vitamins 

Generally, multivitamins consist of 13 essential vitamins such as A, C, D, E, K and other forms of nutrients. Since every individual has different requirements, taking multivitamins rather than individual vitamins might not be beneficial. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a medical practitioner so that he/she can recommend the best vitamins to meet the nutrients needs based on one’s health condition, age and lifestyle for the best possible results.


Can Dietary Supplements Help Mitigate Coronavirus Symptoms?

Nutritional deficiencies of calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, folate, and zinc in the body can result in compromised immunity. The association of severe COVID-19 with inflammatory conditions and the weakened immune system suggests that the administration of supplements along with a balanced diet can help to provide defense against the virus. Being a potent immunomodulator, vitamin C can reduce or prevent the severity of infection caused by the coronavirus. Stimulating the generation of antimicrobial peptides such as cathelicidins and defensins, Vitamin D supplements can bolster innate immune responses against the virus. Besides, zinc supplements can help manage respiratory infections in children and reduce infection that could lead to pneumonia during severe cases of COVID-19. Thus, supplements can ensure help strengthen immune responses and support the treatment against the coronavirus to a certain extent. However, no research studies demonstrate the effectiveness of supplements to curb the infection caused by SARS-CoV-2.

According to TechSci research report on “Global Vitamins Supplements Market By Source (Natural Vitamins & Synthetic Vitamins), By Product Type (Multivitamin, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D & Others), By End User (Adult Women, Adult Men, Senior Citizen & Others), By Region, Competition, Forecast & Opportunities, 2024”, the global vitamins supplement market is anticipated to reach a CAGR of around 9% during the forecast period owing to the growing vitamin deficiency among population as well as increasing health awareness.

According to another TechSci research report on “Global Immunity Boosting Products Market By Type (Supplement, Beverages, Food and Others), By Distribution Channel (Supermarket/Hypermarkets, Convenience Stores, Medical Stores and Online), By Region, Competition, Forecast & Opportunities, 2025”, the global immunity boosting products market is projected to witness an exponential growth and surpass USD17 billion by 2025. The growth can be attributed to the rising concerns for maintaining optimal health as well as rising incidences of coronavirus cases around the world.