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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Multivitamin Study

What did they expect from a daily multivitamin? Miracles?

Apparently so.

"The largest study ever of multivitamin use in older women found the pills did nothing to prevent common cancers or heart disease."
- Study: Multivitamins Don't Help Everyone

I just think the whole premise for the study, and the article, is wrong. Multivitamins were never intended to prevent major diseases, just outright vitamin deficiencies of a few nutrients. In many cases, the amounts of a given vitamin in a multivitamin is too small to even do that. Vitamin E, for example. What do you see, something like 15-30 i.u. in most multivitamins? Pathetically inadequate if you ask me.

The RDA and the newer RDI were based on the amounts of a given nutrient needed for a healthy person to maintain a minimal level of health. These levels do not take into account genetically determined higher requirements for a particular vitamin, the person's environment, lifestyle, eating habits, size, weight, or current physical condition.

The levels are not what is needed for a healthy person - or a not-so-healthy person - to achieve or maintain optimal health. The levels do not take into account if the person drinks coffee, sodas, or alcohol, or eats a "normal" amount of sugar, each of which can waste B-vitamins. And many people consume all three of these!

The levels of recommended nutrients do not consider an individual's consumption of chemicals in foods (preservatives, additives, residues of pesticides) which will raise their requirement of vitamin C. So does exposure to environmental toxins, bacteria and viruses. So okay, a multivitamin may have enough to prevent recognized symptoms of scurvy. Big whoop!

I agree with the article that a vitamin supplement should not take the place of getting nutrients from food. If we can get them from food, certainly that is better. They're in their natural state, perhaps with synergistic nutrients that enhance their benefit. If they're in there in the first place. And if they don't get destroyed by cooking or are thrown out with cooking water. (If you cook your veggies in water instead of steaming them, save the water for soup - or just drink it once it cools!)

Wait a minute, back up... "If they're in there in the first place?" Yes, indeed, that's what I said. Growing foods with chemical fertilizers drives some nutrient deeper into the soil where plants' roots can't reach or absorb them. And commonly used fertilizers do not replace all nutrients taken from the soil by the plants. If the nutrients existed in a location in the first place, they may have been depleted after many years of farming, even with crop rotation. Erosion carries away topsoil with its valuable nutrients. Increasing crop yields per acre has probably resulted in lower nutritional content of foods. 'Nuff said?
Update: new article - Eating Your Veggies: Not As Good For You?

Assignment #1: See if you can find a recent study on the nutrient content of a variety of foods in several locations throughout the U.S. (or your country.) Go ahead. Google away! Let me know what you find...enter your comments below.

Okay, so after all my ranting, do I recommend multivitamins? Yes and no.

No, if they give you a false sense of security. They can't replace the dietary insults of improper or inadequate nutrition. They may help, but you may do yourself more harm than good if you think you can pop a daily multivitamin in your mouth and chase it down with a soda and denatured food in an imbalanced diet.

Yes, if you get the best-quality multivitamin you can afford and use it as extra insurance against what may be missing in a well-balanced diet.

Assignment #2: When you're in line at the grocery store, take a good look at what you're buying. Take a look at what most other people are buying. (If it's about the same, start reading up on health and nutrition!!) You'll see a lot of soda, alcohol, desserts, frozen and canned vegetables, and a predominance of processed foods which often have "wheat flour" (or sugar!) as the main ingredient. "Wheat flour" (not to be confused with 100% whole wheat flour) is very denatured, don't let the term "enriched" fool you - they took out a lot more than what they put in.

"According to the USDA, (Handbook #8, 1963) white bread has the following losses of nutrients which are found in whole wheat bread: calcium, 60%; iron, 76%; potassium, 74%; magnesium, 78%; B1, 90%; B2, 61%; niacin, 80%; B6, 60%; linoleic acid, 50%, folic acid, 79%; pantothenic acid, 69%; vitamin E, 100%; copper, 74%; manganese, 84%; zinc, 50%." - Bread - The Staff of Life?

Oh, and by the way, don't be fooled by brown wrappers on bread or the claim "made with 100% whole wheat." Read the list of ingredients. It may be made with 100% whole wheat and "enriched wheat flour."

Assignment #3: While you're in the store, take a stroll down the cracker aisle. Find a product which does not have hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. (Keep may eventually find one!) These are trans-fats, the ones the USDA has been telling you for years to avoid. Even if they weren't bad for you (they promote coronary artery disease) they cannot perform the function of unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) throughout the body.

As usual, I'm recommending a few products for their quality. Order them here or get them at a local health food store, use them wisely, keep them out of the reach of children, and for goodness' sake don't expect them to prevent cancer and heart disease!

Thanks for listening. I feel better now. If you liked what you read here, please spread the word. Leave a comment if you want, tell me what you found at the grocery store, what you liked or didn't like about this post, or tell me something I don't know. (Really, I'm not being sarcastic. What I don't know is a lot! At least I know that!)

Another update: and the beat goes on... An article published on 2/18/09 referred to the original article on multivitamins, saying, " can't help but wonder how nutritionally bankrupt veggies can be avoided. Supplementing them is problematic, too: don't look to vitamin pills, as recent research indicates that those aren't very helpful either." Ack! The original article said they were not found to be helpful in preventing cancer or heart attacks, not that they weren't helpful at all. The study reviewed in that article didn't even look into possible benefits of taking multivitamins! Sheesh! Let's leave a little room for hope!! On the other hand, the new article does speak well of the benefits of organic produce.

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