Researchers question safety, necessity of vitamin drinks

The New York Times reviews recent research about the necessity and safety of vitamin-fortified beverages.

What’s the deal with vitamin drinks? Do we need them? Are they harmful?
As more companies spike their water, juices and sports drinks with vitamins, the New York Times discusses recent research exploring whether these drinks deliver too much of a good thing.
Reporter Anahad O’Connor notes a July study in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition that found many people exceed the safe limits of nutrients as recommended by the Institute of Medicine. And, she sites a study this month in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism that analyzed 46 drinks sold next to bottled water in supermarkets and found that many contained vitamin B6, B12, niacin and vitamin C in quantities “well in excess” of what experts recommend.
The lead author of that study, Dr. Valeri Tarasuk, a nutrition science professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto, told the Times the vitamins added to these drinks are already plentiful in the average person’s diet, so their inclusion in the beverages is almost completely unnecessary. “It’s very hard to figure out the logic the manufacturers are using to do this fortification,” she said. “There’s no way that the things that are being added are things that anybody needs or stands to benefit from.”
But can all those vitamins hurt us? We don’t know. “With these products, we’ve embarked on a national experiment,” Tarasuk said. The Times article notes the risk, in particular, of consuming too high a level of fat soluble vitamins that accumulate in tissue and could effect the liver. The article also presents experts’ concern about drinks with too much antioxidants, which can throw our systems off kilter.
Why hasn’t been anyone been worried about the effects of these vitamin-packed elixirs? We’ve been too busy villainizing sugar. “This extreme micronutrient addition has fallen under the radar,” Tarasuk said.

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