I didn’t grow up taking vitamins. I was the girl who’d be at a friend’s house for a sleepover and when offered a Flintstone multivitamin think I was getting some kind of magical candy. Why didn’t mom buy me those chalky treats? Maybe the same reason I never got to pack Mondo fruit drink in my lunch. Growing up in the suburbs we weren’t early adopters of the granola wave – so fish oil, Saint-John’s wort, b-complex were irrelevant. PB&J all the way to graduation.
When I went away to college, mom worried about my health especially since I have always been kinda prone to illness. My brothers called me ‘sickly’. She would tell me I need to take vitamins and when I got sick she said I wasn’t taking enough vitamins. Although the suburbs weren’t the first places to open health conscious superstores – we did have Costco! This is where mom began to purchase wholesale bottles of 500 multivitamins for me to take to school. I didn’t mind, they were gummies and after a Friday night – I’m sure my body could use some extra vitamins, right? No, I took them because they made me feel better in my mind but did I need them and did they really help?
As my years of college went on, I became more skeptical of things l saw, heard, read etc – thank you society! It’s when I first read The Creative Destruction of Medicine By Eric Topol did my suspicions about vitamins become confirmed. In the US, Americans are paying more than $30 billion per year on vitamins, supplements and herbs and $60 billion worldwide. The problem with vitamins is there has been virtually no randomized studies completed. To date the only randomized, rigorous study has been on glucosamine. Glucosamine is a supplement that has evidential proof of it’s positive effect on people with arthritis in their knees.
Did you know there are more than 50,000 dietary supplements in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database?
After reading that book a year ago, I kept my thoughts about vitamins mostly to myself. In my head when I was with someone at the local drugstore, I thought: sure you can buy those vitamins, I’m not the one getting scammed. As I was reading through the news this week I saw that WebMD published an article about why people take multivitamins and it took me back to Dr. Topol’s questions. Published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, a survey was taken of nearly 12,000 adults to examine why they take multivitamins. From the study they found that 45 percent took them because they believed it would improve their health despite the lack of scientific evidence that they improve health or prevent disease. You can read the entire article here.
Look I’m not saying stop taking your vitamins… because if they aren’t hurting you then what’s the big deal right? But I think Samatha Heller, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital brings up a valid statement.
“I wish that portion of the $30 billion spent on dietary supplements was spent on healthy foods and gym memberships.”
Well at least they still taste good, kind of like Mondo.
Photo credit: selva / Foter.com / CC BY-NC