The word on the street is that vitamins might not be doing you so much good after all, at least when it comes to vitamin supplements.
Last December the Annals of Internal Medicine published several studies which concluded that multivitamin supplements don’t do the public a whole lot of good, and a new study recently in The Journal of Physiology showed that vitamin supplement intake could actually be harming athletes. It has even been written that excess vitamins may be a risk factor for diabetes, at least when it comes to serving formula that’s power-packed with vitamins to babies.
In response to the December findings, the Annals of Internal Medicine published an editorial titled “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” writing “Despite sobering evidence of no benefit or possible harm, use of multivitamin supplements increased among U.S. adults from 30% between 1988 to 1994 to 39% between 2003 to 2006, while overall use of dietary supplements increased from 42% to 53%.”
That use of supplements accounted for about $30 billion spent on vitamins and minerals in the United States in 2011.
We know that we need vitamins to live, which makes it not so shocking that many companies have bottled them up and made them easy for consumption, but where do these vitamins come from in the first place? Our food.
Several studies have shown that multivitamins do nothing to prevent heart attacks or cancer, whereas eating more fruit and vegetables has a wide variety of benefits. Leafy greens and pears may reduce your risk for a stroke and root vegetables may be beneficial for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
So why are we still taking them? It’s partly a question of money and big industry.
Fruits and vegetables contain so many vitamins and we need them to survive, so nutrition marketing has told us that we can get them in different forms. While at the outset getting people to have a diet higher in vitamins and minerals may have seemed like a good thing, ultimately it has become more of a question of marketing than nutrition. When even Girl Scout Cookies are being marketed as healthy, you know something has gone wrong. In fact, it has been shown that when foods are marketed as healthier, which means they often have vitamins added to them, it leads to bigger profits. Vitamins make good business sense.
Vitamins are good for you, yes. But if you think you can stick to an unhealthy diet and just keep yourself going thanks to pills, you can forget it. If you have a well-balanced diet, you may be getting all the vitamins you need. So kick the pill and go for the fruits and vegetables instead.
Photo Credit: stevendepolo