I was contemplating the conundrum about vitamins, and as soon as I logged on, this article, telling me not to take vitamins, popped up. If you don’t feel like reading it, it says that there is no correlation between vitamin use and increased health, in fact there is some evidence to the contrary. Of course, I’m suspicious if they don’t include links to the research they are citing. The minute I did a search on research on vitamin benefits I got this article from Harvard School of Public Health, stating it is a good idea to take a multi vitamin. Another article from CNN, shows very inconclusive results as to whether vitamins prevent breast cancer or heart disease. Even Vitamin D, the current darling is starting to lose its shine, see here.
From everything I’ve read, I think there are some things we can say.
- You are always better off getting your vitamins from food
- More is not always better.
- Pills cannot compensate for poor choices
- Diseases are complex, and any kind of pill is only part of the answer.
- We don’t understand the whole picture of how food affects our body, so pulling one nutrient out and focusing on it may be counter productive.
Vitamins and minerals have been on my mind lately. As I’ve my mentioned before, I use myfitnesspal. I don’t have trouble with my weight, but I do it to help my clients, and to have an objective measure of “healthy” eating. I eat most of my diet with the objective of it being healthy choices. I find it interesting what the results are. First, A and C are easy to get. You almost have to try to be deficient in those two.
Interestingly, those are the two most often listed on labels. Myfitnesspal doesn’t give you the option of tracking the b family, d or others. You can however track sodium, potassium, iron and calcium. I find that I don’t get enough minerals, even though I eat a largely whole food diet. (No one’s perfect-I do eat desert). There is the possibility that Myfitnesspal is inaccurate. Much of what is in the database is user supplied, making its accuracy suspect. However, the other day I had commercial cereal, and for the first time, my iron intake was over 100 percent.
So, if taking a multivitamin is not beneficial, why do we fortify foods? We do have proof that fortifying foods reduced the incidence of pellagra and rickets. Is is possible to get all your nutrients from food? Is the USDA’s RDA inaccurate? Is the only way to get it all from food is to go from the other direction, and pick foods based on their nutrients, then figure out how to make meals of them?
I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think science does yet, either. It is beneficial to pay attention, learn, and do your best. Another thing to remember is that “vitamins” and “supplements” are pretty broad categories. there is a world of difference between a daily multivitamin and some “proprietaries blend” of goodness knows what. There are people out there hawking all kinds of “supplements” There is no evidence that mega doses of anything is good for you. The funny thing is, many of the people who are taking tons of crazy supplements are the same people who are eating right. When you do start to study nutrition, you see how important it is to eat healthy food as much as possible. You don’t have a lot of calories to waste on junk, especially if you are a small person, who doesn’t take a lot of calories to maintain.