Relying on mainstream media for health information is a sure way to keep yourself misinformed. It seems no issue is so simple and straightforward that it can't be twisted into confusion and misinformation by a few well-placed quotes.
The New York Times has continued its long tradition of articles suggesting that taking vitamins and minerals is detrimental to our health. This time the target of its misinformation is bottled water that is spiked with small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
The picture in the article displays Vitamin Water, the most popular of these beverages. An authoritative voice leads the cautionary quotes:
“You have vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in foods, and then you have people taking supplements, and then you have all these fortified foods,” said Mridul Datta, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition science at Purdue University. “It adds up to quite an excess. There’s the potential for people to get a lot more of these vitamins than they need.”
The article goes on to hint at potential toxicities that could result from consuming vitamins and minerals in excess of the upper limit established by the Institute of Medicine, specifically mentioning vitamins B6, B12, niacin and vitamin C. The implication is that consuming these vitamins in levels found in vitamin-fortified drinks could lead to toxicities. Ironically, the article points out further down:
"When consumed in excess, some water-soluble vitamins like B and C are excreted in the urine."
So, the same vitamins first mentioned as being consumed in excess with these drinks are later acknowledged to be excreted in the urine when consumed in excess. In fact, a quick search of the research literature finds not a single report of toxicity for any of these vitamins except when consumed in doses several hundred times higher than found in these vitamin drinks.
The article rightly points out that the biggest risk of vitamin toxicities comes from the fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, E, D, and K), which can accumulate in the body with ongoing high intake. Once again, irony arises: Vitamin Water sells no drinks that contain vitamins A, D or K.
Vitamin Water sells a few drinks containing vitamin E. However, there is an enormous gulf between the very small doses of vitamin E found in that beverage, and the extremely high and chronic doses of these vitamins required to produce toxicity. The highest vitamin E content in Vitamin Water is 15 IU, or 50% of the recommended daily intake. For comparison, large populations studies have found few side effects when vitamin E is consumed at 3200 IU daily!
Again, much ado about nothing.
There are many products and substances found in virtually every grocery store in the country that have a very real and documented negative impact on our health. These products are consumed in enormous quantities by a large percentage of the population. The small amount of water-soluble vitamins added to these drinks is a very smart marketing ploy, but hardly a cause for concern.