The story from CBS News, linked above, has raised many questions. Here is my response:
“MULTIVITAMINS ARE USELESS,” claims the Annals of Internal Medicine. For the most part, I agree.
The “case is closed” after studies find no health benefits from taking vitamins.
This is the conclusion from recent studies published in December 16th in the Annals of Internal Medicine that many have already asked me about. (READ THIS STORY HERE)
I will agree that most vitamins are, in fact, useless but the problem with this blanket statement is that not all vitamins are created the same. There is a massive difference from one multivitamin to the next, even though the label says “multivitamin.”
The first question we have to ask is where do vitamins come from? The answer of course, is food. (The exception being vitamin D; the majority of which we get from sunlight, and the fact that it is not a vitamin it is a hormone.) Back to the vitamins we get from food. Nobody would argue with the fact that the best way to get your vitamins is from food, and that eating foods with high vitamin content, such as fruits and vegetables, are essential in creating/maintaining health. Conclusion: Vitamins come from food and the nutrients we require for maximizing our health come from food.
So, do the vitamins in most of the multivitamins we take come from food? Absolutely not!
The vast majority of the vitamins you find are actually synthetic vitamins. They are vitamins made from chemicals in a factory and are nothing like the vitamins you get from food. Just one example is vitamin B12. In most multivitamins you will see B12 listed as cyanocobolamine. Cyanocobolamine does not exist in any food source in nature. It is made by reacting cobalamins with cyanide in a laboratory. There are synthetic and whole food versions of every vitamin. They are not the same thing.
The problem with this study is they use these synthetic vitamins, (which we already knew were useless) in their study and then use a blanket statement, saying all vitamins are useless.
Whole food vitamins are nothing like synthetic vitamins and are very important in promoting health. When choosing a vitamin you want it to be exactly how it exists in nature. You want a whole food vitamin. If you are not seeing whole foods on the label, you can be assured what you are taking is synthetic and doing you no good. Synthetic vitamins have actually been linked to increasing cancers.
If I wanted to make all cars look dangerous, I could buy a dozen old Ford Pinto cars, line them up bumper to bumper, fill them with gasoline and ram them together in a mock road accident that caused them all to explode. From that, I could declare, “All cars are unsafe!” even though I only tested the Pinto. That’s the same as what’s happening with these multivitamin studies. They intentionally choose synthetic nutrients, and then they use the negative results to declare that all multivitamins are dangerous.
What these studies prove and what the headlines should say is that synthetic vitamins are useless and toxic to human health.
Which multivitamins contain synthetic parts? Just about all of them. Centrum, One-A-day, any Walmart, Kmart, Shopko brand, etc… Most supplements from multi-level marketing companies like Advocare also use synthetic parts. I have seen a number of multivitamins that even add a high dose of caffeine. That way you get a caffeine rush, feel good, and think it’s because of the vitamins. Most meal replacement shakes I have looked at are loaded with synthetic vitamins as well. The only thing you should ever replace a meal with is a healthier meal!
You ever wonder how they could pack so many vitamins into one little capsule? Well, they can’t. With most vitamins they only use a part of a vitamin complex, not the entire vitamin. This would be like buying a dozen tires and saying you have 3 cars. You need all the parts of the car for it to work properly. The same goes for vitamins. You cannot just pack a bunch of vitamin fragments into a pill and expect to get the benefits from a full vitamin complex.
So, where should I be getting my vitamins from? Of course the best way is certified organic whole foods. I am a big fan of making smoothies or juicing. Just make sure you incorporate greens such as spinach or kale into all or your recipes. Sometimes people get a little too fruit crazy and end up with a big glass of sugar water. Another great way is by taking a WHOLE FOOD multivitamin. The label should have words you can understand like algae, basil, broccoli, etc… It should not have words like dl – alpha tocopherol or cyanocobolamine in the ingredients.
Can vitamins really cure or prevent diseases? The only claim we can truly make is that vitamins can create sufficiency if we are deficient in a certain nutrient. Deficiency can absolutely cause disease. Scurvy, from vitamin C deficiency, and rickets, from vitamin D deficiency, can all be cured by adding sufficient nutrients to the diet. If we look at the diet of most Americans we are woefully deficient in vitamin D, Omega 3 fats, and probiotics. Those are 3 supplements we should definitely be taking. Sadly, just like with multivitamins there is a huge difference from one to the next; which will be addressed in future letters. Most Americans also do not consume enough vegetables and fruits. For most of us, a whole food based multivitamin is a good idea.
In the future, please do not waste your money on synthetic vitamins, overpriced multilevel marketing company supplements, or meal replacement shakes. Stick with whole foods and whole food supplements. You will surely be adding years to life and life to years.