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Studies report evidence against vitamin use, students sound off

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Evidence against taking vitamins doesn't stop students

The average University of Florida student does not have spare change for organic food or a gourmet kitchen to cook it in. A student’s dietary health often suffers during the college years as a result of a lack of access to more healthy options. This, students said, can make a person turn to dietary supplements.

After exposure to studies, one among 35,000 men and the other among 38,000 women, cited in The New York Times determining vitamins as a potential link to prostate cancer and other health issues, students said they are confident in their decisions to continue to supplement with vitamins.

Devin Shenkman, a third-year psychology major at UF, said he takes vitamins every day. His daily routine consists of doses of multivitamins, B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, fish oil, garlic, Biotin and Açai berry tablets.

A recent article in The New York Times cited a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer development in a study of male users of vitamin E and selenium. “I only get 400 IU of vitamin E from my supplements and I don’t take any selenium at all. I will still continue to take vitamin E in the future. However, I don’t feel that students are exempt from the prostate cancer risk,” Shenkman said.

Shenkman, 21, said he feels confident that with his healthy diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables he will not be affected by these studies, despite the fact that the studies showed evidence of health issues with vitamins, specifically vitamin E.

Additionally, the Archives of Internal Medicine, also discussed in The New York Times, conducted a study among older women who use multivitamins and found a higher risk of dying during a 19-year study.

Paige Pitisci, a first-year telecommunications major, recently started taking Açai berry, Biotin and multivitamin supplements. “I started once I realized I don’t get my daily recommended amount of vitamins. I don’t eat a balanced diet. I don’t have breakfast, ever,” said Pitisci, 18. Pitisci said she found out about the recent study linking multivitamins to an increase in death and was shocked but will not discontinue her use of multivitamins because of the financial impact. “I just spent a bunch of money at CVS on this stuff and I can’t return it. I’m taking it,” Pitisci said.

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Another reason students take vitamins is out of habit as a result of their upbringing. Parents seem to play a major roll in vitamin use of students, said Candace Mason, a CVS pharmacist and UF alumnus.

“My parents strongly influenced my vitamin habits, they used to put out a little tray of them with my breakfast before I went to school,” Shenkman said.

Mason answers many UF students’ questions about vitamins every day at CVS Pharmacy, located at 1515 NW 13th St.

The majority of the questions she answers about vitamins pertain to multivitamins and illness-preventing supplements. Many students are often concerned with the financial burden of vitamins above anything else, she said.

In reaction to The New York Times article, she said it is possible to overdose on nearly anything and that vitamins such as zinc can be toxic in high quantities. However, she said she would not turn customers away from vitamins until there is more evidence on the matter. “I wouldn’t worry about the long term risk or benefits though. I think they are relatively safe when used with the right dosage,” she said.

Mason said students seem unaffected by the recent study as they continue to come into pharmacies and shop for deals on vitamins. “I’m still taking them no matter what. See you all when I’m 1000,” Shenkman said.

Written by Kelsey Meany
Meany is a University of Florida student studying journalism.

Image credit: Morguefile