Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily
There is no shortage of supplements on the market. You now can even get your vitamin fix in the form of vitamin water, but is this the best route to optimal health? Professor Anding explains.
Vitamin C Supplements
Vitamin C is a nutritional powerhouse, an antioxidant, and helps with the absorption of nutrients. Taking supplements, though, is not a substitute for eating fruits and vegetables. Many studies have shown that plant-based diets can aid in the prevention of cancer, while vitamin C supplements are not that effective for preventing cancer and heart disease.
Another shortcut that people try to take on their path to optimal health is drinking vitamin-enhanced waters. Many vitamin waters start with a sugared water solution, and they might have some pomegranate juice or orange juice or another kind of fruit beverage, but in general, it’s not going to be 100% fruit juice.
They add vitamins and sometimes minerals, so drinking these waters is much like taking a supplement. Reflecting back on the fact that we have little data proving that supplements are linked to good health, why are these waters so attractive?
According to Professor Anding, as with taking supplements, many people believe that they don’t need to worry about eating healthy if they drink what she refers to as “vitamin-enriched Kool-Aid.”
“If you’re vitamin deficient, it might be a good way of getting it,” Professor Anding said. “If you can’t take a vitamin for whatever reason, it might be a weak alternative, but I think the real challenge is to believe that supplementing our way to good health is the way that we’re going to go, and clearly, the data doesn’t support that.”
Best Way to Get Your Vitamins
Many individuals believe they can compensate for unhealthy eating by taking a supplement, but according to Professor Anding, a supplement is no substitute for the benefits derived from whole foods.
In order to get the ideal balance of vitamins and antioxidants, the National Cancer Institute and other organizations suggest that you organize your plate in the most effective form.
Imagine a line down the middle of your dinner plate. Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C can have both negative and positive effects depending on your individual health profile. It can enhance iron absorption, which benefits most people, but some studies suggest that vitamin C can interfere with prescription medications such as warfarin, which are used to thin the blood, making them less effective.
Recent evidence has indicated that large amounts of vitamin C may interfere with standard chemotherapy for cancer. The theory is that vitamin C will accumulate in the cancer cells.
Because vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, it protects the cancer cells from the damaging effects of chemotherapy. Research at the Sloan-Kettering Institute indicates that the addition of vitamin C could reduce the effectiveness of many standard chemotherapeutic agents by up to 70%.
Therefore, if you decide to step out of the norm and take significantly more vitamin C than what’s recommended, Professor Anding recommends that you talk to your health-care provider, find out if there are any risks, and prioritize getting vitamin C through your diet rather than through supplements.
This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for The Great Courses Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for The Great Courses Daily.
Professor Roberta H. Anding is a registered dietitian and Director of Sports Nutrition and a clinical dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. She also teaches and lectures in the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, Section of Adolescent Medicine and Sports Medicine, and in the Department of Kinesiology at Rice University.