There is a new review of the literature out that claims vitamins to be a waste of money. Here is our take on the new research:
1. Vitamins are health promoting entities existing in our food. To say that they are not healthy for us is pretty silly. Vitamins are food. They are what give our bodies what they need to make us healthy. If a study says that vitamins are not good for us, then there is something wrong with the vitamins that were used or the way the study was performed.
2. The newest reviews tested non-specific vitamins versus very specific diseases- Basically, these studies followed people taking multivitamins to see if they helped prevent cancer, heart disease or mental decline.
Multivitamins are basically trying to prevent major deficiencies in vitamins that can affect your health, but they do not typically contain targeted nutrients for certain diseases. Giving someone a multivitamin and then saying it didn’t prevent heart attacks and is therefore unwarranted is like giving people an aspirin, some Immodium and an antacid (three common over the counter medications) and then saying they didn’t work because the test subjects still ended up with warts.
3. One study showed that smokers who took beta carotene increased their risk of lung cancer- This has been known for a while. The big problem here is that the researchers don’t seem to understand the difference between vitamins made by Mother Nature and vitamins made in a lab.
Studies are very specific. The study did not say that beta carotene in general increased the incidence of lung cancer in smokers. It did not say natural beta carotene (like from eating lots of carrots) increased lung cancer in smokers. What that study ACTUALLY said was this: smokers who take extra beta carotene in the artificial, chemical version develop lung cancer quicker.
This actually goes for all vitamins, but specifically the fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. With water soluble vitamins like the B Vitamins and Vitamin C, whatever the body doesn’t use is excreted out. However, with fat soluble vitamins, the excess vitamins are retained in the fat tissues. Artificial fat soluble vitamins seem to be toxic and never leave the body, and therefore could be expected to cause problems.
4. The studies were actually inconclusive scientifically, as at least half of the participants stopped taking the vitamins long before the study was over. Science is only as good as the study, and when the participants are that inconsistent, it makes interpreting the data very hard and much less accurate.
5. The studies followed fairly healthy Americans with less problems than the average American who were already eating right and exercising. These people were probably already getting good nutrition from their food, so the extra vitamins were possibly unneeded in their cases. So basically in this case, the study is very specifically saying that fairly healthy people that are already eating fairly well may be wasting their money by taking lots of extra vitamins.
In order to see if the vitamins were really needed or not, you would need to follow the “Average American” who is eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) of junk food and fast food, and see if you can tell a difference when they start taking vitamins. Coke and Twinkies, the fuel of many Americans, supply very little of anything beneficial to the human body. In those people, vitamins would definitely not be a waste.
6. Chemicals are not vitamins- We touched on this issue a bit in number 3, but chemicals made in the lab are not the same as vitamins created by Mother Nature. The researchers never take this into consideration.
When I was in college, a test we did in Physics was to take a bowl of Kellogs that was fortified with iron and fill it with water. Once it was soggy we put a magnet in the bowl and placed the bowl over a larger magnet that caused the magnet inside the bowl to spin. We spun the magnet in the bowl for 15 minutes. When we took the magnet out the magnet was covered with iron shavings. When Kellogs “fortified” the cereal with iron, they literally just baked iron shavings into the flakes. Our bodies cannot absorb iron shavings. Iron from food has been dissolved and integrated into the food (plant or animal), which our body can absorb.
This goes the same for natural Thiamine (Vitamin B1) versus Thiamine pulled out as a by-product of coal pit tars, which is the source for most of the Thiamine that is put into our products these days. The same goes for all vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – they must be converted by a plant into useable material before we can absorb it.
7. Conclusion- We’re not sure if the researchers in the vitamin community are intentionally trying to sabotage vitamin studies, or if they just know so little about vitamins that they are doing silly work. Either way is possible, especially since the pharmaceutical companies have such a strong influence over research in this country.
Hope this helps,
Dr Matt and Dr Robin
This week’s bit of Useless Information: The avocado is the world’s most nutritious fruit with 25 essential nutrients, but many people avoid it because of its high fat content, which is actually also has many health benefits.
This email is courtesy of Matthew Barnes, D.C. and Robin Barnes, D.C. Neither this nor any of our emails are intended to be medical advice and should not be taken as such. They are opinion and are for informational purposes only. None of the nutrients discussed here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.