Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Taking vitamin supplements may increase risk of death, says study

Linus Pauling, a recipient of two Nobel Prizes, once postulated that, if small doses of vitamins is so essential for staying alive, taking big doses will make you stronger, more immune to diseases. His ideas helped germinate a whole generation of pill popping hypochondriacs, even though there is little scientific basis to his ideas, the aura of his two Nobel Prizes convinced many that he is too smart to be wrong.

But increasing studies have shown that overdose of water insoluble vitamins, like Vitamin A, can cause severe health problems. The current study seems to suggest that even at previously considered safe levels, vitamin supplements could increase the likelihood of death. In other words, it is worse than an ineffective placebo; it is downright detrimental to spend money on vitamin supplements. All the vitamins you need, can be obtained from a balanced diet. Any further attempts to "trump" nature by taking supplements may not help, or worse still, kill you.

Which makes me think about our "foreign talent" policies. Like vitamins, if we try to bar all foreigners from Singapore, Singapore will die. But do we need to supplement our "natural intake" with more generous scholarships? Does it even help? I do not think it is unreasonable to say that, if ever Singapore has an overdose of "foreign talent", both Singaporeans and foreigners will suffer.

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