A New Year’s resolution we can—and should—stick to
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
What do Eliseo Guallar, MD, DrPH; Saverio Stranges, MD, PhD; Cynthia Mulrow, MD, MSc; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH; and Edgar R. Miller III, MD, PhD all have in common? Besides being big-deal scientists and having way more letters after their names than you or I will in four years, they all say not to take your vitamins.
Conventional wisdom has always told me that an important part of being a healthy person involved washing down a shot glass full of multi-vitamins with my Tropicana Pulp-Free each morning, and every day that I didn’t take my vitamins (so, every day) was another day that I would feel a little twinge of shame. But just in time to assuage my growing guilt and stop the annual wave of new year’s healthy goal-setters, the above influential names in medicine have published an editorial entitled “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements” in the American College of Physicians’ Annals of Internal Medicine journal.
This isn’t the first time that vitamins have come under fire as a mostly useless sham, but it is probably the most definitive time, as the Annals of Internal Medicine is very influential and well-respected. And hopefully their words will start to make a dent in Canada’s health products and vitamin industry, which, according to the Canadian Health Food Association, is worth $3.5-billion (still nowhere near America’s $28-billion industry).
Ample research clearly places vitamins in the department of magical thinking, which is the idea that certain actions will have positive outcomes, even when there is no scientific evidence—and in fact, evidence to the contrary—to back it up. Along with their editorial, Annals published three articles that analyzed large sets of existing data surrounding the efficacy of vitamin supplements for general health and for prevention of chronic disease, and they reported in their editorial that “Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.” They also added that in the United States and similar countries that have access to a balanced diet (for the most part), it is even more unnecessary to supplement with vitamins.
Further, Annals found that some vitamins (such as “β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements”) can actually be harmful for you. And despite continued studies regarding their efficacy (or lack thereof!), the vitamin industry continues to grow in the US as people presumably continue the search for the magic pill that will solve all of their imaginary problems.
I’m taking a stand this year, resolving to keep doing what my lazy self has always done and forgo the expensive vitamins. Maybe instead of shelling out cash on marked-up snake oil, I’ll spend that money on a tried-and-true source of valuable nutrients: vegetables.