• Switch on Health

Are your supplements producing expensive urine?

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

Have you heard the claim that your body is excreting nutrients because it doesn't need them?

If you’ve ever taken a multivitamin supplement, you may have noticed a change in the colour of your urine. This occurs because certain nutrients and other compounds are excreted in the urine. Specifically, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) has a bright yellow colour, so this is the one usually noticed. Critics of nutritional supplementation sometimes attempt to use this as an argument against the validity of taking a nutritional supplement. They may tell you it shows the vitamins weren’t absorbed properly, that your body doesn’t need them because it is excreting them, that you are wasting money by consuming more than you need, and so on.

When you consume a supplement, or any other food or substance, it first enters your gastro-intestinal tract (stomach, small intestine etc). At this point, it has not yet been absorbed by your body. Absorption occurs when the substance moves from the GI tract, across the cells that line your tract, and into the bloodstream. From there, the nutrients are carried around the body by the blood, where they can then be absorbed and used by other body cells.

As your blood circulates in your body, it passes through your kidneys. One of the roles of your kidneys is to filter the blood and excrete substances. This excretion occurs whether the substance is desirable or not. For example, many medications are excreted through the kidneys, and the rate of excretion is one determinant in the dosage and frequency prescribed by your doctor. Would you think that medicines were a waste of money if you noticed them in your urine?

The presence of a substance in the urine means that it must have been absorbed. If it were not absorbed, it would pass through your GI tract and be excreted in your faeces. Vitamins in the urine is not a sign that your body doesn’t need them! It is a sign that your kidneys have just been doing their job and removing substances from the bloodstream before all your cells have had a chance to obtain them. The dose you consume therefore has to be higher than the minimum required by your body’s cells.

You now know that there is little connection between needing nutrients, and having those same needed nutrients being excreted. In our next blog posts, we will ask whether supplementation is even needed at all.

Want to read more about supplements try our other post


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