Huge study boosts disappointment on multivitamins

From AP: The largest study ever of multivitamin use in older women found the pills did nothing to prevent common cancers or heart disease. The eight-year study in 161,808 postmenopausal women echoes recent disappointing vitamin studies in men.

Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamins to boost their health. Research has focused on cancer and heart disease in particular because of evidence that diets full of vitamin-rich foods may protect against those illnesses. But that evidence doesn’t necessarily mean pills are a good substitute.

The study’s lead author, researcher Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, offered this advice: “Get nutrients from food. Whole foods are better than dietary supplements,” Neuhouser said.

The study appears in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

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What this study means for you: Eat real, unprocessed, whole food. What we call “vitamins” are really just a handful of known compounds that exist in food that:

a) has a bunch of other stuff in it — some of which we know about, most of which we still don’t;

b) we have evolved to eat in its whole format, not as isolated chemicals; and thus

c) probably work synergistically — in other words, they work together.

Eating an orange is NOT the same thing as a vitamin C tablet. Also, there are many forms of “vitamins”. “Vitamin A”, for example, is actually a general term applied to a family of molecules that are divided into two broad groups depending on the source (animal or plant). The retinol family includes substances such as retinyl palmitate (e.g. in fish livers), retinyl aldehyde, retinol, retinoic acid, etc. etc. There are hundreds of known carotenes, the plant source.

You get the idea. You can’t eat like crap and expect vitamins to solve your problem… indeed, in many cases, they do more harm than good.