The vitamin scare stories that hit the headlines in UK national newspapers recently are based on a recent report by the Food Standards Agency, recommending Upper Safety levels for vitamins and minerals. “Most of these upper safety levels are based on good science. They have, however, made three important blunders which will do much more harm than good.” says internationally acclaimed nutritionist Patrick Holford.
According to Holford, the first is restricting vitamin B6 to 10mg. B6 can be bad at 1000mg, causing reversible nerve tingling and numbness, but not 100mg. The Institute for Optimum Nutrition, a research charity, recently investigated the long-term effects of B6 supplementation. They investigated 563 patients of clinical nutritionists, who had been taking 30 to 250mg for three months to 42 months. The nutritionists had recorded a wide variety of symptoms associated with B6 toxicity. They found no evidence of nerve tingling, numbness or any other adverse effect associated with B6 regardless of the dosage or the length of time taken.
“Nutritionists frequently recommend 100mg of B6 a day. There is no evidence that this amount has any harm whatsoever. The FSA are quite wrong to recommend this restriction. It will do much more harm than good. B6 not only helps stabilise moods, especially in women, it also helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. I take 100mg a day and intend to keep doing so.” said Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition.
The second is confusing the loose bowels that some people experience on two grams of vitamin C with diarrhoea, which is why they have limited vitamin C to 1,000mg a day. Holford commented “I take 2,000mg. I go to the loo twice a day, while, according to a nationwide survey, 90 percent of people don`t go every day. This is a benefit, not a risk of taking larger doses of vitamin C. People are intelligent enough to take less if they don`t like the effect. It is certainly no more pronounced than figs or prunes.”
Thirdly, there`s a type of B3 called niacin that makes you blush for 20 minutes at doses above 100mg. Of this report Holford said, “Personally, I like the effect. Sex too makes you blush, but it isn`t bad for you. The blushing effect from vitamin B3 certainly isn`t a toxic effect.” Some people prone to depression appear to need this much to keep stable moods or free from migraines. Niacin also lowers cholesterol by 20-30 percent and is therefore a natural alternative to statin drugs. The Food Standards Agency have recommended an upper limit of 17mg, which is less than the RDA of 18mg.
According to Holford, the other major over-reaction is regarding a form of chromium, chromium picolinate. “The FSA don`t have a problem with chromium per se, and have set an upper limit of 10,000mcg. However, they are concerned about chromium picolinate, a form of chromium, based on one report more a decade ago that showed that animal cell, exposed to chromium picolinate in a test-tube showed DNA damage. The FSA`s report states that ‘the significance of these observations is unclear.’ The media have reported that the FSA wish to ban chromium picolinate, however the FSA deny this and have reiterated that that they are concerned and wish to present this data to their Committee on Mutagenicity.”
Patrick Holford concludes, “I doubt very much there is any real reason to be concerned about chromium picolinate. There isn`t a single case of a person supplementing this and developing cell mutation or cancer. Most supplement companies have switched to other forms of chromium which are equally effective, such as chromium polynicotinate”.