Buy healthy food and skip the vitamins
Last week two news stories caught my attention.
First, medical experts have (once again) come out saying that the evidence does not support taking supplemental vitamins to reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the government panel that provides guidelines to the public on such things as preventive care and screening tests, has recently updated its recommendations for vitamin and mineral supplements.
Looking at a large number of smaller studies (what’s called a meta-analysis), the researchers at the Kaiser Permamente Center for Health Research found the “disappointing” results that vitamins and minerals, or multivitamins, do not reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer in the general public.
The USPSTF has given these supplements an “I” grade: “Evidence is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting, and the balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined.”
But they singled out beta-carotene and vitamin E as being potentially harmful and gave these supplements a “D” grade: “There is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits.”
Save your money.
This latest news is in addition to earlier evidence-based recommendations that
- vitamin C supplements will neither prevent nor shorten the duration of a cold;
- calcium supplements will not protect against osteoporosis; and
- vitamin D supplements will not protect against osteoporosis or any other disease.
The supplement industry is HUGE! They make billions of dollars every year by aggressively marketing their products to the general public. We want to believe them, and we are quick to open our wallets.
But most of their claims about “supporting” or “boosting” our health are pretty anemic, at best.
Vitamins are not regulated by the FDA like other drugs. Supplement manufacturers do not have to run clinical trials or put information about adverse effects on the packaging. It’s definitely “buyer beware.”
Healthy adults should be able to get the vitamins and minerals they need from a healthy, balanced diet. We have access to a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, and enriched grain and dairy products, and these foods are a much better value than supplements.
What’s in your herbal supplement?
The second article I read concerned the supplement industry’s fraudulent practice of either diluting or replacing herbs in their products. Apparently, it is a pretty wide-spread problem, and has caught the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The researchers selected popular medicinal herbs, and then randomly bought different brands of those products from stores and outlets in Canada and the United States. In all, they tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice. Among the supplements tested was echinacea that is supposed to fight off colds, but instead what you got is ground up Parthenium hysterophorus, a bitter-tasting weed (so it must be good for you) and rashes, nausea and explosive flatulence.
Explosive flatulence? Yikes! But I guess that would take your mind off your cold symptoms.
Again, these herbal supplements fall under the extremely lax rules of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.
You might ask, why isn’t the industry regulated just like any drug if they purport to medicinal benefits? They get away with it because Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah defanged FDA oversight of this industry in 1994. In fact, he blocked any subsequent attempts to tame the Wild West state of the industry by threatening to block all funding for the FDA.
Don’t be taken in by the self-serving marketing tactics of the Wild West of the supplement industry. Research does not support the need of supplements for the majority of healthy adults.
Save your money and spend it on something else you need.