Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are Vitamins a Scam?

A recent front page article in Reader's Digest is certainly ripe for controversy.  Instead of inflamming the controversy, let's twist the discussion and extoll the numerous benefits of fruits and vegetables. 

Pills cannot replicate fruits and vegetables...period.  This may come as a surprise to many people.  Plants make an endless array of compounds that have biological activity in the human body.  So far, only a tiny minority have been highlighted to provide health benefits - vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, etc.  But scientists are finding that there are hundres more compounds found in plants - so-called phytonutrients - which are fast becoming a hotbed of nutritional and medical research. 

The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables come from eating combinagtions of compounds that work together.  When you eat tomatoes or carrots, nature has combined numerous carotenoids (antioxidant pigments) to provide health benefits including boosting your natural immune system.  Supplemental pills are poorly designed and do not contain the plethora of compounds that synergistically work together.  Moreover, the synthetic nutrients in pills aren't wholly absorbed in our bodies so you are only getting a fraction of what you swallow. 

A recent national survey showed that fewwer than 1 in 3 of us gets 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  But the benefits of eatings fruits and vegetables are enormous:

Fruits and Vegetables Prevent Cardiovascular Disease.  Several large, long-term studies show that top fruits and vegetable consumption (5 a day) can equate to a 15% reduction in heart attacks and a 30% reduction in stroke.  One extra serving of fruits or veggie per day can decrease your chance of a stroke by 6%!

...Reduce the Prevalance of Eye Diseases - macular degeneration and cataracts.
...Protect against Cancer.  Some estimate the reduction to be as much as 50% in most forms of cancer if everyone ate 5 servings per day.

Are vitamins a scam?  It depends.  They can be inexpensive insurance.  But we have grown accustomized to having pills substitute for a healthy diet.   We all know people who eat poorly, but take numerous pills to compensate for their insufficient diet.  Pills cannot replicate the multitude of protective nutrients in plants.  Enjoy the tastiness from Nature whether its whole grains loaded with B-vitamins and minerals, spices having potent antioxidants or fruits and veggies loaded with protective vitamins and phytonutriets.  Mom was right, an apple a day can help keep the doctor away. 


Bill said...

Important facts to consider are: depletion of nutrients in the soil, shipping vegetables that are not "vine ripened". Also,certain parts of the country have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables that "fill the bill" I will eat as healthy as I can, but yes, I will take "food form" vitamines and yes! Maxgxl is a must...(google it)

Dr. David Ritchie, DC said...

Great post. I agree with you 99.9%. A healthy diet with plenty of veggies and fruit is the way to go. Though, like Bill said, depletion of the soil has left our produce lacking in the nutrients they once had.

Not all vitamins are created equal. Many are low quality and some research shows may even do more harm than good. I use organic whole food supplements in my practice which provides not just the vitamin or mineral, but the entire food... as you were mentioning the importance of that.

As you said, a healthy diet is the base... but supplementing can be very powerful if you are taking a high quality, whole food supplement.

Good article!

About Just Me in T said...

are you aware that RD is being confronted by many many reputable organisations about this BAD article?

Sadly in the US most recent Edition (April 2010) an article has appeared that has regular readers of this magazine wondering if their own National Readers Digest maybe the next to close down.


Bruce said...

Thanks for the comments. Great points on depletion of nutrients in our soil. In fact, I read soemwhere that one of the other benefits of organics is that they contain higher amounts of nutrients due to better soil/less artificial fertilizers...does anyone have any research/data on this?

Just for the record, I take a whole food vitamin supplement as an 'insurance policy.' I'm still a creature of habit every AM with my breakfast.

Steven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

A multivitamin is pretty ineffective. I try to eat what I can, but since I don't, and know how good they are for me, I take a whole food supplement that has 17 vine ripened, pesticide, herbicide free fruits and veggies in it everyday with great scientific support, not testimonials. Also it has a NUTRITION label, not a SUPPLEMENT label since it is real food. It is the next best thing to real fruits and veggies, and because its in capsule or chewable form, it just won't go fuzzy on the shelf! www.crow4health.com plus kids are free. If you can't, don't or won't eat what you should, which is most everyone, this is for you. It's all about prevention. You can't beat it!

Lizing Vi said...

Most of the products seemed not to instantly work, it was pointless. I think the ones that work instantly are great because you know what they do.



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Robert Linde said...

Thanks for the post. In my opinion, not all vitamins are created equal so it may be necessary to read the label of what we’re taking. Consulting with our health practitioners on the correct supplement to take is also a wise move. When I did the 3 day military diet, it allowed the use of supplements, especially Vitamin C. When we’re taking in fewer calories because of dieting, it’s important to take a supplement to compensate for nutrients that the body may not be getting. I think that’s also the reason why I was able to lose 6 pounds after my 3 day diet regimen. I didn’t crave food nor did my body weakened during the diet. For more information and a great resource page to use, hop on to this site http://3daysmilitarydiet.com/faq/multivitamins.html

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