A recent research by a Copenhagen University team has cautioned that indiscriminate use of vitamins can be a health hazard.
The controversial study, published in the American Medical Association journal, claims that many supplements like Vitamins A and E and beta-carotene may actually end up reducing your lifespan.
"People treat it like a general tonic, but there are two sides to it. While certain doses can be beneficial, tilting that balance can cause disease itself. They should only be taken under careful supervision," said Ishi Khosla, Nutritionist.
Besides the study, incidents such as the one where 16 children died in Assam after being administered Vitamin A during an immunization round in 2001 show that even vitamins need to be handled with care.
Most doctors believe that supplements cannot substitute for a balanced diet, which takes care of all the nutrients the body needs.
Along with public cluelessness, this situation is created by the hype of the wellness industry.
Health Commission report
But the Copenhagen study finds resonance in a government Health Commission report in India, which labelled 10 out of India's top 25 top selling vitamin brands "irrational or non essential or hazardous."
Many of these drugs contain vitamin formulations way over the normal requirement, but are still consumed thoughtlessly like candy, including some of the biggest brands such as:
Becosule and corex made by Pfizer
Liv-52 by Himalaya
Dexorange by Franco-Indian
Digene by Abbott
Polybion by E Merck
Glucon-D by Heinz
Evion E by Merck
Revital by Ranbaxy.
"Three to four units (of something, vitamin E, I think) is what the body needs, but you get these capsules only in units of 100, and even 600. That's what the body needs in 50 days, so obviously there will be side-effects."
"People not aware of the benefits, or the dangers of hypervitaminosis. If a mother has more than 25000 units of (something else), the baby can be born malformed. How many young women know that, how many potential mothers know that?," said Dr CM Gulati, Editor, Monthly Index of Medical Specialties.
So before you reach out for that brightly coloured capsule that promises health and longevity, think. Take it only if you need it.