Soap, Vitamins .. What’s Next: Spinach?

You may run into the “vitamins are a waste of money” meme just about everywhere on the internet and on cheesy television news programs (you still watch television news?). Here is a blurb from CNN:

vitaminsA newly-published editorial about vitamins is getting a lot of attention.

The controversial piece, published in this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine, claims that dietary supplements and vitamins are a waste of money.

The editorial, which is based on three studies, says taking supplements offers no benefit when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer or a second heart attack.

The report also says those studies also show that multivitamins don’t prevent mortality or improve cognitive function in men older than 65.

Depending on the agenda of the reporting site, the report might not suggest that the vitamin study would inevitably have reached a different conclusion if it had been conducted with a population that was in need of nutritional assistance. Let’s face it: study healthy individuals, especially those who enjoy a healthy diet, and vitamin supplements might well be a waste of money; but study those that do not have the means to provide for healthy meals, those that might be forced to choose between paying the rent and feeding the kids, then the addition of vitamins to their diet might show great benefit.

Of course another problem is that the vitamin industry is yet-another huge, greedy corporate interest and when a family is choosing between food and shelter, there might not be any money available to bolster the profits of the vitamin plutocrats. Ironically, this industry has created the myth that vitamin supplements are necessary to sustain a healthy life (making vitamins psychologically addicting?). So the report questioning the efficacy of vitamins does have value, even if it is possibly skewed.

Don’t just accept this report or any other report or study without engaging your critical thinking genes. Today’s news reporting is too often selected for its entertainment or shock value. Think for yourself. Question everything. You might not be the expert on vitamins or anti-bacterial soap or spinach, for that matter, but you can still question the parameters of a study and definitely the language used in the reporting of the results. Unless, of course, when Popeye says it.

Vitamins might or might not matter but words do matter.

4 responses

  1. Thanks for clarifying the ingestion concept. That was stupid on my part.
    Trying to keep it simple, I also left out the exceptions of a few vitamins the body can make although often in insufficient quantities for good health. (The liver can make vitamin K. The skin can make vitamin D—with the sun’s help.)

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  2. Vitamins are essential in body metabolism. The body cannot make them. They must be ingested (or injected). Whether to take additional oral vitamins depends on the diet and health of each individual.

    Unfortunately, over-the-counter brands are regarded as “supplements” in the U.S. So, unlike drugs, governmental regulation ensuring safety, quality, and dosing is lacking. Buyer beware!

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    • What you say is certainly true but when you speak of vitamins being ingested, it might be interpreted that you are only referencing the taking of vitamin pills. It must be emphasized that, although vitamins are a requirement for life, it is the intake of food (vitamin rich food, not Twinkies) that provides almost all the vitamins for almost all of the people.

      Few people NEED supplemental vitamins even though all people NEED vitamins in their diet and if the diet is insufficient, then supplemental vitamins may be required.

      The same is true for minerals, amino-acides, proteins, etc. But a good, healthy diet is how we maintain our levels of all these vital elements.

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  3. Did the study also show that taking vitamins was useless in the prevention of Justin Beeber? Are there really people out there who use vitamin therapy for the treatment or prevention of cancer or heart disease? I suppose desperate people with terminal illnesses will fall for any scam that promises to help them.

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