It’s a shame that a multibillion dollar industry is fueled by misleading people. The business of supplementation is championed by big businesses who utilize fear-mongering tactics to influence the public. These companies disseminate biased data and purport ridiculous claims. ‘We are a nation of rising chronic disease, take this multivitamin.’ ‘We are a nation of malnourished kids, take this multivitamin.’ ‘Autism linked to vitamin deficiency, take this multivitamin.’ ‘Agriculture has ruined our soil; it is depleted of nutrients, take this multivitamin.’ It is an infestation of pseudoscience propaganda that gets delivered daily to our email inbox and shared via social media.
Last night, I was in my normal geek mode and came across a news story on my Flipboard feed; Are multivitamins a waste of money? I was glad to see an article disputing the inaccurate claims made by the industry. The article quotes an editorial published in this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine to support the claim that using supplements and multivitamins to prevent chronic conditions is a waste of money.
Those who follow my blog, know that I strongly believe the body is an amazing system. If that system is treated properly, it can – in most instances – heal organically. You may have read my blog on the overuse of ice and why ice and NSAIDs are not the answer; these posts talk about organic healing of the neuromusculoskeletal system absent of modalities and medicine. I feel the same about nutrition and supplementation.
Last October, I wrote a post titled “Eat This! Don’t take that!”. Our body has always been able to do its job, yet every day nearly three-quarters of the population take a supplement. Multivitamins, fish oil, antioxidants, vitamin D, Vitamin E, B-complex vitamins, conjugated linoleic acid, chromium, pyruvate, CoQ10, etc., Why do we suddenly feel it is necessary to incorporate supplements into our diets?
In most cases a well-balanced diet can provide every nutrient we need to combat disease. Have you ever watched the TEDx talk “Minding Your Mitochondria” by Dr. Terry Wahls? If not I highly recommend you do (video below). In short, Dr. Wahls is a physician who underwent chemotherapy to treat multiple sclerosis and eventually became relegated to a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness. Dr. Wahls made a dramatic transformation, using diet alone. A hearty, vegetable-rich diet reversed her MS. Within a year, she walked without a cane and even completed an 18-hour bicycle ride. Take the time and watch the amazing video.
Back to the editorial piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr. Edgar Miller, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author of the editorial said, The [vitamin and supplement] industry is based on anecdote, people saying ‘I take this, and it makes me feel better’.
The article goes on to state when you put it to the test, there’s no evidence of benefit in the long-term. It can’t prevent mortality, stroke or heart attack. The editorial was based on three studies, which were also published in this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine.
The first study was a meta-analysis of 27 studies that covered more than 450,000 participants and found that multivitamins had no beneficial effect on preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer. The second study looked at 1,700 patients who previously had heart attacks. They were assigned to take three multivitamins or placebos twice a day for five years. This study was inconclusive. The final study followed nearly 6,000 men older than 65, who took either a multivitamin or a placebo for 12 years. The men were administered cognitive functioning tests, and test results found no differences between the two groups.
All that said most Americans are undernourished. I am the prime example: college football Saturday with wings and beer, the ultimate loaded nacho plate on UFC Fight Night and NFL Sunday Ticket with pepperoni pizza, Pepsi, and popcorn. While I know this is wrong, I also know that an artificial, unregulated multivitamin supplement is not the answer. I might be deficient in a few nutrients, but not completely deficient in all. Maybe my vitamin D intake is only 50% of what it should be, but why should I take a multivitamin that provide me an additional 200%? Wouldn’t I only need an additional 50%? There are toxicity effects to excessive vitamin/mineral intake. I can cause more harm than good by following this concept. If I am that concerned about my health, I need to be a responsible, skip the supplements, and start eating a salad.