For many a day, fitness advocates, TV specials, and moms have been hammering home the importance of taking vitamins. While many of us eat right, there are still vitamins and minerals we could be missing. Some vitamins, they believe, can even help prevent specific diseases from developing. The question is, are they right to say that supplements are so crucial, as if they are staples of a healthy lifestyle routine, and without them, you will be less healthy?
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It seems there are those on both sides of the aisle shouting their “facts” about vitamins. The healthy life, to some, is only attainable through vitamins, but not all agree. For example, the pro-vitamin crowd looks to obtaining complete nutrition, while the anti-vitamin crowd points to the lack of regulation, failed research, and general ineffectiveness.
Both sides are compelling, but which is correct? Before we can answer, let’s hear what both sides have to say.
Pro-Vitamins: Yes, you should take vitamins
The champions of vitamins are right when they say that even with a good diet you may be lacking some nutrients. Vitamin and mineral supplements will help protect against disease and aid in the better function of your body. In fact, one of the best reasons to adopt a regular vitamin regiment is because without it, you run the risk of being vitamin deficient. Getting enough water-soluble vitamins like Thiamin and Riboflavin, for example, is difficult to do without a water-soluble vitamin supplement.
Also, despite the negative media reports, there is substantial evidence that points to the fact that vitamins do help prevent disease. According to John Pittman, MD, “In the early 1990s, several large population studies showed significant decreases in cardiovascular disease in people who consumed more vitamin C or vitamin E. For example, in a 10-year study conducted at UCLA, men who supplemented daily with 800 mg of vitamin C lived six years longer on average than men who consumed the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 60 mg a day.”
He went on to note that “the study, which enrolled over 11,000 people, showed that the higher vitamin C intake lowered the death rate from cardiovascular disease by 42%.” Clinical trials also have suggested that, once combined, dietary supplements of vitamins and minerals or a probiotic agent “may lower recurrence rates for people with bladder cancer”.
Furthermore, many people have a misconception about vitamins. They imagine a person with a handful of different colored pills, having to take them all one by one. In reality, what many health advocates support is a single multivitamin daily along with omega-3 fish oil. A single multivitamin provides you with the needed nutrition, and if you don’t eat much fish, the omega-3 is an easy, tasteless way to get your heart, brain, and joint healthy nutrient.
Anti-Vitamins: No, you should not take vitamins
The first thing to realize is that there are no federal regulation concerning vitamins. That is, the FDA plays no part in evaluating these products. Because of this, most supplements found at the market are useless. The reason we hear so much positive news about vitamins is that nutritional companies spend millions of dollars promoting and selling their product. The fact of the matter is that vitamins sell because of a fundamentally erroneous conception of them. Bravo advertisers!
The irony is that they contain healthy ingredients, but they are in a form where our body cannot absorb them. The vitamins found in pills are often packaged differently than in food, and our body can subsequently be unsure of how to use the new source. Instead, we should pursue eating healthy foods and employ better lifestyle choices.
When it comes down to it, vitamin supplements may be healthy for those who have a physician recommendation, but otherwise, you may be doing more harm than good. In a number of studies, researchers found that take a single-nutrient supplement like vitamin E or beta-carotene can actually increase the risk of some diseases. Additionally, some supplements – namely folic acid – may help reduce their intended target disease – in this case neural tube defects – but it may lead to something worse – in this case, dementia in the elderly.
What to Do?
When it comes down to it, both sides have some important points to make. Vitamins, of course, are good for our bodies. Supplements, however, have mixed reviews, especially because companies aggressively promote vitamins with the motivation of dollars, not health.
The single best suggestion is to get your nutrients from food. Simply eat more fruits, vegetables, and nuts. All doctors will tell you this is the best source. However, if you’re missing out on some vitamins, before you go buy seven bottles of assorted pills, talk to your doctor. Generally, though, one multivitamin with an omega-3 supplement would be only things you need, if you even need them.
Just remember what Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food.”