Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Good or Bad?

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Good or Bad?

Dr. Dennis Lipton took a multi-vitamin most of his life. As a health conscious longevity-minded individual he wanted to make sure he was getting enough nutrients to fuel his active lifestyle. “It seemed pretty logical” said Lipton.

His perspective on vitamins changed when he learned of a study about smokers who were given beta-carotene supplements to see if it would reduce incidence of cancer. The idea for this study came from the observation that people who have high carotene levels have lower levels of cancer. The results of the study were shocking. It turns out smokers who took the beta-carotene actually had a higher incidence of cancer and overall death. Follow up studies have indicated there is a continued increased risk.

Dr. Lipton stopped taking his multi-vitamin and is asked regularly by his patients should I take vitamin and mineral supplements?

Dr. Lipton indicates that “Our bodies are made to absorb nutrients in their natural state from food in just the right proportions and quantities.” For example carrots contain not only beta-carotene but also alpha gamma delta zeta etc-carotene as well as a huge array of other phytonutrients like lycopene lutein polyacetylenes terpenes and polyphenols just to name a few. These nutrients in food are meant to be consumed and absorbed together in a harmonious manner controlled by your digestive system.

“This is analogous to a symphony orchestra with all the instruments playing their part to produce beautiful music” said Lipton. “Getting an abnormally high amount of one vitamin or mineral is like having way too many trumpets playing too loudly. It throws off everything.”


Individual nutrient supplements adversely affect absorption and function of other nutrients in ways that we don't fully understand. This can transform a normally benign or helpful substance into an apparent carcinogen just like what happened in the beta-carotene study mentioned above.

However vitamins do prove to be an asset to some. Vitamin supplements are beneficial for people who cannot meet their nutrient needs. Patients with malnutrition cancer liver or kidney disease and alcoholics will need supplements to maintain good health. Individuals with these health conditions will almost always be under the care of a physician receiving proper treatment and monitoring.

In other instances Dr. Lipton may recommend vitamin D to people living in northern latitudes with low sun exposure during winter months. Vitamin B12 may be recommended for people who avoid animal products and those on long term acid-reduction therapy such as Omeprazole Nexium and the like. Dr. Lipton is quick to point out that these are special cases.

For the general population there are simply no documented health benefits of packaged vitamin and mineral supplements. There are however documented harms. The best insurance that you are getting enough nutrients to thrive is eating a variety of whole foods like vegetables fruits legumes nuts and seeds every day preferably with every meal.

For a complete breakdown on nutrients Dr. Lipton recommends referencing a food nutrient scoring system called ANDI. ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients including vitamins minerals phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.

The best supplements are derived from ultra-high-nutrient foods which Lipton encourages we consume in large amounts through our daily diets.

If you are interested in finding out which specific supplements may be right for you and your lifestyle schedule an appointment with Dr. Dennis Lipton a board-certified internist at Vail Valley Medical Center's Internal Medicine clinics. Learn more at vvmc.com/internalmed or by calling (970) 477-3090.