After recent news about the possible dangers of multivitamins, many have become anxious over the question of whether or not vitamins could possibly be harming their health. Those who place their faith in a daily vitamin regimen are crying foul, declaring that this is a rigged study propagated by Big Pharma.
Could it be true? Could a daily multivitamin actually cause health problems or, as this study seems to suggest, actually bring about a premature death?
Problems With Observational Studies
One characteristic is common among every observational study: there are more unanswered questions than cold, hard facts. In the case of this study, how many subjects were smokers? How many were obese? Who had a preexisting condition or a genetic predisposition to a serious illness? What were their diets like? How many died of unnatural causes, such as an accident?
It is unfortunate that science has become so adulterated, making it is difficult to differentiate between truth and bias. As evidenced by the popular article published by the Atlantic, Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, bias is more common than most people have been led to believe. Corporations fund studies or make large donations to schools in order to establish support for their products. Scientist sometimes rely on funding from special interest groups that promote a specific agenda. Researchers may be trying to make a name for themselves, which might cause them to fudge data in order to support a faulty hypothesis.
Problems With Multivitamins
A common problem with dietary supplements in general is not found in the vitamin itself, but in the attitude of the consumer. Many people believe that a multivitamin can replace healthy foods and make up for a poor diet. It is unfortunate that some doctors actually support a diet of processed foods, especially since it has been demonstrated in laboratory experiments that refined carbohydrates (e.g., wheat flour and sugar), actually produce diseases of deficiency. (Taubes 321) Even food items that are “natural” contain toxins, like phytic acid and lectins, that are intended for defense against predators. These naturally produced chemicals can rob the body of nutrients, which creates deficiency-related illnesses and intestinal damage.
A multivitamin offers the same prescription for those of any age, weight, or health status. A 20-year-old, athletic man is given the same amounts of various vitamins and minerals as a 50-year-old obese, sedentary man. A 30-year-old woman who smokes is given the same nutrients as a 45-year-old, athletic woman. Vitamins that are specifically designed for seniors generally do not differ in dosages, but merely add lutein for macular degeneration or saw palmetto for prostate health.
There are many toxic ingredients in contained in certain popular vitamins. Labels reveal a host of unhealthy additives, including artificial colors, aluminum, and talc. Many vitamins also contain hydrogenated oils, which are artificial trans fats that have been proven to be harmful. It is no wonder so many suffer from the after-vitamin nausea created by these pills, which also tend to be totally indigestible, and pass through the digestive tract in full form. Many have the common misconception that a cheap superstore vitamin offers the same benefits and ingredients as a pricier health food store vitamin. Consumers need only compare vitamin labels to see that this is indeed not the case.
There is No Magic Pill
What can the public take from scores of information regarding vitamins and other dietary supplements? The answer may lie in the fact that there is no magic pill. Choose real, whole foods that are contained mostly within the perimeter of the market, such as produce, seafood, and unprocessed meats. Find ways to reduce stress and enjoy life. Take a walk, ride a bike, and play like a 10-year-old. Without the basics of good health, vitamins are powerless.