Many Americans take dietary supplements to prevent deficiencies, or avail from their potential benefits. Unfortunately, the nutritional requirements of smokers differ considerably than nonsmokers, and taking multivitamins may do more harm than good for smokers. This article identifies the vitamins and minerals requiring supplementation, and the ones that do not for optimum results.
Compared to nonsmokers, smokers need more vitamin C to maintain steady body reserve. Vitamin C is the principal antioxidant in the human serum, and free radicals in tobacco smoke deplete vitamin C stock. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that interact with stable compounds and cause harm. Studies show that smokers have lower plasma levels of vitamin C than nonsmokers.The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C for men ages 19 to 71 years and older is 90 mg; women in the same age group need 75 mg. Because smokers are exposed to higher levels of oxidative stress from cigarette smoke, they need an additional 35 mg of vitamin C everyday. Oxidative stress is a state where the body's ability to defend itself is compromised..
Tobacco smoke contains hydrogen cyanide - a poisonous colorless gas. Linnell and colleagues investigated the effect of tobacco smoke on vitamin B12 metabolism and excretion. They discovered that smokers have lower serum levels of vitamin B12, and higher urine excretion levels than nonsmokers. The authors concluded that high cyanide intake due to smoking may produce abnormal vitamin B12 metabolism. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 for men and women ages 19 to 71 years and older is 2.4 mcg. Smokers may require vitamin B12 supplementation.
Antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids being added in some multivitamins/minerals because of their protective-effect on the macula - a part of the retina that gives central vision. Carotenoids are orange to yellow pigments found in fruits and vegetables. Researchers found that smokers have lower plasma levels of lutein and zeaxanthin than nonsmokers, possibly due to free radicals in tobacco smoke. Although these antioxidants are available as single supplements, the American Institute of Medicine has not established their daily values, so consuming green leafy, yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables may be your best option.
According to an eight year prospective study on 25,563 Finnish men by Virtamo and colleagues, smokers should avoid beta-carotene supplements because it increases the risk for lung cancer. In this study, male smokers aged 50 to 69 years received either 50 mg of tocopherol, 20 mg of beta-carotene, both agents, or a placebo. The investigators found that the relative risk for lung cancer incidence was higher among recipients of beta-carotene than non-recipients.
Persons who chew tobacco should avoid supplements with vitamin K. Vitamin K counters the action of anti-coagulants, and tobacco is rich in vitamin K. Ingesting tobacco juice may lead to vitamin K accumulation in the body which may adversely affect medication.
Buy single supplements of vitamin C, vitamin B12, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Avoid using multivitamins; they contain the full complement of micronutrients.
For your best options, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
- "British Journal of Medicine": Effects of smoking on metabolism and excretion of vitamin B12. Linnel, J.C. et al. April 1968
- "Journal of the American Medical Association": Incidence of cancer and mortality following alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplementation: a postintervention follow up. Virtamo, J.L. et al. July 2003
- "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition": Smoking and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke decrease some plasma antioxidants and increase gamma-tocopherol in vivo after adjustment for dietary intakes. Dietrich, M. et al.. January 2003
- "American Journal of Health System Planning": Lutein and zeaxanthin for macular degeneration. Zhan, L. & Sweet, B.V. July 2008
- "British Journal of Ophthalmology": Cyanide, Smoking, and Tobacco Amblyopia. Darby, P.W. & Wilson, J. 1967