Vitamins and cancer risk

The supplement industry has always amused me. I must admit my knowledge of vitamins is scarce. It’s based on my school biology education, and that was a while ago… I finished school in 1989.

But one thing that always amazed me about vitamins and how they are marketed is that most people seem to assume that they are not only a good thing, but are necessary somehow, even though my meagre understanding of biology tells me that they are micronutrients – micro, as in we need them in tiny amounts that can easily be obtained by a balanced diet. (Have you met somebody who suffered from scurvy? I haven’t.) I tried using vitamins when I was much younger, in my early twenties. And I noticed then that all they ever gave me was colourful urine. I used to joke that one only needs to take vitamins if one wants colourful piss. The more you take, the more colours of the rainbow you will piss into the toilet. And that’s all they really achieve.

Then last year I read some interesting sceptical articles that went further then just agreeing with me – it seems that supplements are the most common cause of liver disease these days. (Not vitamins, but other supplements used for building muscle and so on.) But now it looks worse than that. There is evidence that taking excessive vitamins puts one at greater risk of contracting cancer. Don’t take my word for it. Read the article and follow the links to the studies here.

It is amusing though, that the marketing of something without any supporting evidence has made a huge and profitable industry – one that’s been going for many years, and most people simply accept what the adverts tell them at face value. We truly do live in a credulous world. I know that, for example my own mother swears by vitamins, and thinks that taking vitamin C somehow magically prevents her from catching colds. She has years of anecdotes to back it up, and I will never be able to convince her otherwise.


About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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