Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are Artificial Vitamins Harmful to Me or My Children?

I was recently researching whether or not 1% fat or skim milk is a healthier alternative compared to whole milk. I read that since all the fat is stripped away, the vitamins have to be "replaced" by synthetic ones and in time, could actually harm the body more than the high-fat whole milk. 

There is SO many different answers/information online that I just do not know what to believe, although I DO want to eat and drink what is best for me. (and my 3 children) Any of your educational input would be GREAT!
Christina P.

Hi Christina,

Low-fat or fat-free milk is better than whole milk for some people because it is lower in fat and cholesterol. If your children are young and active, whole milk may still be appropriate for them.

Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble so the vitamins naturally present in milk are in the fat; therefore, fat-free milk has only trace amounts of vitamin A, and no Vitamin D.

It's quite difficult to find milk that is not fortified with these vitamins; particularly vitamin D. In the first half of the 20th century, when rickets--the deficiency disease of vitamin D--was found rampant, especially in areas of the country where children rarely had exposure to the sun, healthcare providers recommended supplementing milk with vitamin D, since that was a food consumed by almost every child. It was a good way to assure most of the children in the US would get the vitamin D they needed, and the incidence of rickets has been quite low ever since.

There are brands of milk that do not fortify with vitamins and you are more likely to find these in health food stores or organic aisles. But I don't know of any harm that would come to humans from consuming added vitamins as opposed to those naturally found in foods (other than toxicity from excess ingestion). The chemical composition of vitamins in pill form is identical to vitamins occurring in nature.

When you're looking for accurate information, look for agencies that have no obvious conflict of interest (eg, the dairy council will certainly tell you how great milk is, while PETA will have a host of reasons why milk/meat is not healthy). Look to the NIH (National Institute of Health), FDA, USDA (including myplate.gov), the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, MedlinePlus, or CDC (Centers for Disease Control). 

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