Myth or Fact: Vitamins Are Just Expensive Pee
Has any ever told you that taking vitamin supplements just create expensive pee? Most people have heard this before but if we look at the biochemistry, this is mostly a myth. Let's start with some back ground information. When it comes to vitamins and minerals, there are two categories that each can be classified into: water soluble and fat soluble. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble and are able to be stored in the body to be utilized at a later point when they are needed. The remaining vitamins, such as Vit C, are water soluble and only stay in the body for a short period of time. Once these vitamins are absorbed by the body and utilized, they are filtered out of the blood by the kidneys and excreted in the urine. So what actually happens when we take higher doses of vitamins? For this purpose we will focus on Vitamin C. High doses of vitamin C are often taken when people start to feel sick as it is known to be an immune boosting vitamin. If the vitamin C taken is a poor quality supplement, then the myth is true as the wrong form of the vitamin is being taken and only a small benefit will seen with the majority being converted into expensive urine. However, if you use good quality Vitamin C that is in the form of L-Ascorbic acid, it will be utilized by the body to scavenge free radicals, which are damaging if left in the body, and be converted to the oxidized form diketogulonic acid. Once it has been converted, the kidneys will filter out the used Vitamin C that is no longer beneficial to the body as it has been oxidized. When using good quality products, you provide the body with the needed building material to repair and regenerate. So when taking higher doses of vitamins, you aren't just creating expensive pee; your body is using the vitamins at a high and effect rate before eliminating the utilized form that is no longer useful from the body. The key is to make sure the supplements that you are using are the correct form and at the appropriate therapeutic dose.
Now where did this myth come from? Many research articles are based around testing the urine content for vitamins after they have been consumed to determine the exact amount that is excreted in urine. In this way, it allows results to show how much the body is absorbing and utilizing. However, when this form of testing is done, the different forms of vitamins are all clumped together such as seen in the example of Vitamin C. Both L-Ascorbic acid, dehydro-L-ascorbic acid and diketogulonic acid are all labeled as Vitamin C which is very misleading as different forms indicate different bio availability in the body.
To break this down from a long story to a short line, yes it is beneficially to be taking a good quality vitamin supplement and it isn't just a recipe for expensive pee. Depending on what your nutritional needs are at the time, higher or lower doses may be needed or more specific vitamins may be needed instead of a multi vitamin. If you are feeling ill, higher doses of vitamin C are needed. If you notice that your vision is worse at night then higher doses of vitamin A may be needed. When looking at the rack of vitamins at the health food store, it is always important to know which will be most beneficial and which your body needs. This way you can avoid spending money on products your body will not absorb and ultimately creating expensive pee.
As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic doctor prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.
Gaby, Alan. Nutritional Medicine. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg, 2017.
King, G., Beins, M., Larkin, J. et al. Rate of excretion of vitamin C in human urine. 1994.
Pelletier, O. & Keith, M.O. Bioavailability of synthetic and natural ascorbic acid. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1974; 64: 271-275