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Vitamins - Expensive Urine or Worthwhile Investment?

You may have heard from various sources that vitamins just make "expensive urine". The argument is that the human body doesn't absorb all the vitamins we consume and that much of it is disposed of via urination.

However before you throw all your vitamins away and refuse to ever buy another vitamin, lets stop and pause whether that kind of knee-jerk reaction is necessary.

First. What is the purpose of vitamin pills?

It is to make certain that you are getting enough healthy vitamins in your diet, especially if you aren't always eating healthy. Extra vitamins means healthier well-being, stronger immune system, less toxins in your system, less need to store fat and your body tissue heals faster when you have lots of vitamins in your system. Ultimately it means that if you forget to eat enough veggies in a particular day at least you are still getting some.

Second. How much of it really is disposed via urination?

This answer varies depending on the source and also on the person. Urine consists of water and the waste from the foods that we eat and the fluids we drink. It also can include dead blood cells and other materials the body wants to get rid of, which can change the colour of your urine. eg. Eat too many carrots and your urine will turn orange.

Urine production is controlled by the kidneys. Your kidneys only remove things from your bloodstream when there is too much of it, meaning an excess amount of it that you don't need. So in the above example of eating too many carrots, you end up with too much Vitamin C in your blood and your kidney's remove some of it.

So what really matters is the quantity of vitamins you are ingesting as to whether any of it is being disposed of via urination.


This confusion about disposal relates to reporters misquoting British researcher Professor Brian Ratcliffe of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen who says that in his studies the human body disposes of as much as 75% of our vitamin intake, which sounds like a lot... But what reporters often forget to mention is that his research involved test subjects taking a 1.5 gram Vitamin C supplement (the equivalent of more than 20 oranges worth of Vitamin C). So the lesson people need to learn from this is that reporters love sound bytes and skipping over the part where test subjects were taking 20 oranges worth Vitamin C.

So based on that measurement, you can eat 5 oranges and your urine won't change colour and no vitamins will be wasted, but if you eat 6 your urine might change colour a bit.

Third. If quantity is such a concern, how much should we take?

It varies depending on your body's size and your level of physical activity. If you are robust and exercise a lot you are going to need more vitamins. If you're thin and almost never exercise your body evidently doesn't need much, but if you're trying to maintain your health it wouldn't hurt to be taking a small amount of vitamins.

There a lot of different vitamin pill companies out there. There are even rating systems for which multivitamins pack the most punch. So if you're just taking a Life brand multivitamin, then yes, you are not wasting any of it because the dosage is comparatively low. But if you're taking a very expensive "five star" multivitamin with a high dosage, then yes, you are more likely to be taking an excess of vitamins and some of it will be disposed of via urine.

But does it hurt you to be taking extra? No, it won't. It might hurt your wallet a little more if you're worried about that sort of thing.

The rule of thumb when it comes to dosage is that regular people who just want to maintain their health should take a regular joe multivitamin and then not worry about it. But if you're an athlete, a bodybuilder or you've recently suffered an injury and want it to heal faster... then getting the more expensive vitamins makes good logical sense.

Want some interesting facts about vitamins?

Too much caffeine or alcohol can turn your urine clear as your kidneys work hard to dispose of the chemicals.

Dark yellow means you are dehydrated and need to drink more water.

Bright yellow is from Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavon.

If you currently take a multivitamin and your urine is not changing color, it actually means that you are not receiving a sufficient amount. (Therefore don't worry, you aren't wasting any money!)

Less than 25% of Americans take enough Vitamin C on a daily basis.

You would need to regiment your food intake to make certain you are getting enough vitamins on a daily basis. Most people don't have time for that so the short cut is to take a multivitamin pill.

The therapeutic use of vitamin supplements can both treat and prevent serious disease by having vitamins in your system able to help fight off infection and cancer.

When in doubt about whether you should be taking extra vitamins then consult a nutritionist.

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