Over the past month, I've heard the wonk wonk of mainstream media (totally bunko CNN) start the semi-annual banter about vitamins, studies, findings and what is POSSIBLY REALLY BAD FOR YOU.
I should preface this all with: I do not advocate mega-dosing on anything. You want to? Ok. It's your body. Find out what could happen first. Mega doses of fried fish or chocolate or booze or vitamin C will all do something- find out what could happen!
I also just don't like multi-vitamins. Do you know why? As conspiracy watchers (like Boingboing.net, respectable, smart/nerdy and interesting content btw.) often point out, the vitamin industry is unregulated. Now, what happens next in this convo is that the person says they want the FDA to regulate the vitamin industry. Uhhh, that's stupid. The FDA is barely current on medical devices, nutrition, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. I don't think they have the background, interest or expertise to evaluate vitamins. Leave it to the Europeans. They've done research on this stuff for decades and have great info. Back to multis though: they are based on RDA or recommended daily allowances put forth by the FDA, which is questionable science. The vitamin companies then shove a bunch of lab-made elements into a pill and package it for sale.
Here is another idea: get a reasonable handle on what smart and healthy folks around you take daily. Get a nutritional evaluation done by a doctor or medical professional (my chiropractor is a nutritionist and can do blood work/ spit kit/ urine test to determine where deficiencies lie). Then read up on how to help those deficiencies. My best guess is that nearly everyone needs vitamin D supplementation and fish oil supplementation, maybe B12. Many other deficiencies can be addressed by radical, positive dietary change. I want to emphasize what is at stake in many of these articles-- everyone should not take vitamins. Everyone should pay attention to nutrition and learn more. The SAD (standard american diet) is very very very nutritionally deficient. If this is what you eat, you will need to supplement to get through your day. Wanh-wanh.
A brief list of articles mentioning this topic:
CNN about (mostly) megadoses. Gets lots wrong. Is vitamin or supplementation actually Alternative medicine? Hmm, I thought it went with preventative care or health maintenance.
CNN is at again in a gross misrepresentation of findings about our friend fish oil!
A decent blog rebuttal of this stupid article! She is a breath of fresh air.
First- always examine your sources. Most mainstream media view vitamins as weird (maybe) necessary pseudo-science (like chiropracty, in fact) and totally news fodder. Traditional doctors are pretty lame at nutrition. NO, NOT ALL DOCTORS (side note: my friend/neighbor's oncologist recommended pro-biotics for him instead of pills to treat stomach issues after chemo and radiation. This is fantastic!). But I've had pediatricians tell me that homeopathy was dangerous, especially for kids. There is proven research from Europe to contest that. "But that tiny amount of caffeine in those Hyland teething tabs is horrible for kids! It'll make them crazy!" Sigh. These are also the doctors who don't know shit about vegan and vegetarian diets. They don't understand how protein works or where to get it, aside from meat. They don't understand the beauty of eggs (really, if you are low in B12, you must not eat many eggs.). Or that there are 2 grams of protein in a serving of kale. That's alot for a vegetable folks. Think on it- brown rice, beans and kale. Add some eggs and you have a lot of available, non-meat protein.
Second- Remember that every body is different. Your experience of stress is so different than mine! I had a bad time earlier this month, got really stressed out and discovered that I needed some B vitamins. How do I know this? B vitamins are used for energy. They are used by the body to process white flour, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and IN STRESSFUL SITUATIONS. I have always, since I was little, required more B6 than the average bear. I'm high strung? I like to drink more caffeine and eat more bread than maybe is good for me? And since I changed my diet to eat less simple carbs, very little flour and less alcohol, I stopped taking B vitamins. I needed help this month and I took it. My symptoms that indicate I'm using more B than I'm ingesting: mouth sores, unhealthy cuticles, energy drops, dark circles under my eyes. [I lost a friend and dealt with it by eating convenience food and drinking more alcohol. Wanh-wanh.]
To this end, with every body being so different, you really have to do some work on nutritional supplements. I hear so many people railing against vitamins because they feel defrauded. Ok, I hear you on that one. You don't know if you are getting what the bottle says you are getting, no oversite or guarantee there. You feel overwhelmed and goaded by opposing information from media sources. You aren't sure, given these opposing POVs, what you actually need. But reading stuff like this right here will help you start to get a handle on what is happening in every body, what you personally need and what your soft spots are!
Third- Can you get what you need through an amazing diet? Yes I believe you can. Is food today less nutrient dense? I don't know. I think the sources on this topic are highly biased and I can't find information that I stand by. I'm a horticulturalist. I reinforce my soil with good compost and no pesticides. I eat what I raise on this soil. I buy vegetables from people who do the same thing. I eat meat that was raised on pretty fields and finished with nice grain from those fields. I do what I can. I eat organic fermented dairy. It seems to be fine, in the short term. Perfect? No. Unknowns? Lots.
Do most people get what they need through their diets? Absolutely not! We eat things from boxes that have had "nutrients" injected into them. This makes me uncomfortable! Did you hear the news that Naked juice has to remove the "all natural" from its label? It was found to contain "... Archer Daniels Midland’s Fibersol-2 (“a soluble corn fiber that acts as a low-calorie bulking agent”), fructooligosaccharides (an alternative sweetener), and genetically modified soy." (worldobserveronline.com/2013/07/20)
That makes me feel lied to and reinforces my belief that the more things I eat with a label, the more dangerously I'm eating. I can just take kale from my garden, add some fruit and some yogurt and make a smoothie. And I won't feel lied to.
Maybe a lot of this post is opinion.... certainly it is. I'm trying to provide information and not useless ranting, though. I hope you take away this: always examine the sources of competing vitamin rhetoric. Try to find out what you really need before you go off trying to take a ton of vitamins. Give yourself a good hard examination of symptoms, needs, etc. Find a medical person to help with outlining any deficiencies you may have.
Cover up in the sun- skin cancer is real. Wear a hat! Mineral sunscreen is safest but do what you can.
Nearly everyone needs more vitamin D than they are getting. Get a test at your doctor's office or a clinic to find out how much you are getting and/or need.
Eat good food. Eat it every damn day. Enjoy yourself while you do! Better food = better nutrition = better functioning body machine.