Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sorry doctors, but I'm ignoring your advice

Today's run (treadmill): 3.4 miles  

Back in the early '90's, when I first moved to NYC, it seemed like I was always battling a cold or virus. One weekend my sister confronted my constant state of illness and asked me whether I took a multi-vitamin. I said that I didn't think they provided any real benefits. She guaranteed me that if I took a daily vitamin for a month, my constant sniffling and coughing would go away.

I figured it was worth trying, if only to prove her wrong. Thirty days later, I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a symptom. Ever since then, I've taken a daily vitamin. Except for a very very bad week, I've been pretty good at fighting off illnesses. My wife and kids have also taken vitamins on a daily basis and they rarely get sick.

When I saw on the news today that the Annals of Internal Medicine had published an article entitled, "Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements", I had to disagree. After all, what makes these doctors, with their years of training and expertise, more qualified than me to decide if vitamins are good or bad? Not only are these doctors saying vitamins don't help, they are saying that taking vitamins may pose certain risks. Does my sister know??!!!

Seriously, I'm conflicted by this news. I've taken a daily vitamin for over 20 years and have a healthy immune system. But I also run 20 miles a week and eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So is it my diet or the daily supplement? It's not quite as paradoxical as Schrödinger's cat, but it's pretty hard to prove one way or the other.

4 comments:

  1. linus pauling was a big fan of vitamin c ;)

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    1. Indeed he was, and no one can argue its benefits. I used to down a pint of OJ whenever I felt a cold coming on and it seemed to help. I suspect the case against OTC vitamins has more to do with the delivery method than the vitamins themselves.

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  2. Well, I just read that article. They repeatedly say that subjects of the trials had NO dietary deficiencies. Why did they not do studies with people who were malnourished? Why are the test subjects 'well-nourished'? Of course any future trials in a well nourished population are more likely not going to see any benefits of extra supplementation. I can see studying the effects of what too MUCH supplementation, either multi-vitamin or individual fat-soluble supplements may have on an already well-nourished population. Ugh. Research.What outcome would you like? Anyone can design a study to make it turn out anyway you want. It's like politics. You just don't know who to trust.

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    1. I'm not convinced that vitamins provide a measurable level of protection to people with good diets, but I think vitamins may provide essentials that even those diets may lack.

      I don't believe in herbal supplements because they are often found to damage organs or be otherwise toxic. I'm going to rely on my diet for the next month and see if I perceive a difference in the way I feel.

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