“There are no shortcuts in life - only those we imagine.”
Pick up any major health magazine and, in addition to articles about weight loss and the keto diet plan, you’ll be greeted by ads all about the latest and greatest vitamin you’ve got to add to your regimen. Different vitamins claim different benefits, but the bottomline is the same, “take this pill and protect yourself and/or improve your health.”
So: are these amazing claims the real deal -- and what about multivitamins? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t exactly black and white. Just google “vitamins” and “health benefits” and you’ll see what we mean: study after study without a clear answer - with some studies which raise alarming questions. For example, a recently released study shows that, with certain usage, Vitamin B can actually contribute to lung cancer risk. Yikes.
The National Institute of Health states that close to one third of all Americans take multivitamins on a daily basis...with all of these people taking vitamins, there has to be some conclusive data as to whether or not vitamins are actually doing what they say they will...right?
Show Me the Data
The data is conflicting. In addition to the alarm raised about Vitamin B, other studies have actually shown that vitamin use doesn’t impact health in any way. A large women’s health study (conducted in 2009) found that multivitamins failed to protect against the diseases it studied: multivitamins offered no benefits against lung, breast, colon cancer and heart disease. The Iowa Women’s Health Study, conducted in 2011, came up with similar results.
The Physicians' Health Study II is -- arguably -- the most thorough study completed around multivitamin use. A large group of male physicians were given daily multivitamins (or placebos) for over a decade. The big conclusion this study made? Multivitamins offer no protection against cardiovascular disease. That being said, the study did find that the men taking multivitamins were 8% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer (this protective benefit was greatest in men with a previous history of cancer); data also indicated that men taking multivitamins have a lower risk of developing cataracts.
The Truth is Out There
Looking at the results from major studies above, multivitamins have potentially modest benefits for protecting men against cancer...and that’s about all that can be said.
If you really want a data-based way to protect your health, the best place to do so is with your diet. The China–Cornell–Oxford Project, conducted in rural China in the 1980’s, examined the diets, lifestyles, and disease characteristics of 6,500 people. Overwhelmingly, this study showed that what you eat matters: those who eat predominantly whole-food, plant-based diets can completely avoid, reduce symptoms of, or even reverse numerous diseases currently plaguing the Western World.
You Are What You Eat
To add to the growing debate around vitamins, research recently conducted found fault with labeling -- FDA guidelines give vendors considerable leeway with labeling. This study, which focused on 60 popular multivitamins, found fault with a third of these vendors’ labels: a vitamin for children exceeded the upper limits for both Zinc and Vitamin A; one multivitamin doubled the recommended dosage of Vitamin A. These inaccuracies are not only concerning, they could be unsafe: too much of a fat-soluble vitamin such as Vitamin A can lead to health issues.
For those taking multivitamins to protect their health, there’s some (very) good news: there is a scientifically proven way to give your body protection against diseases. Today’s research keeps proving that the best way to protect health is through a healthy diet.
Larry Appel, M.D., who directs the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research , previously stated, “Pills are not a shortcut to better health and the prevention of chronic diseases. Other nutrition recommendations have much stronger evidence of benefits—eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar you eat.”
There’s never been an easier time to eat a diet full of heart healthy foods that provide protection against diseases -- innovations and new services are leaving Weight Watchers in the dust. Healthy food restaurants are cropping up everywhere, and for those who want to make a whole foods diet part of their everyday lives, meal service plans such as Pure Plates are working hard to keep you, and your family, healthy. We craft 100% gluten-free, mostly organic and locally-sourced, pre-portioned meals designed to give your body the balance of nutrients it needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hannah Ash, Journalist and Blog Strategist, Nutrition Fanatic
JoHannah Ash first discovered the transformative power of nutrition after struggling to shed post-baby weight: today, she is 100% committed to continuously learning about disease prevention, weight loss, and healthy living through the foods we eat. She spent a decade living in Burlington, Vermont, surrounded by pioneers in the 'local foods' and 'farm-to-table' movements -- and is proud to have been one of the first people to purchase (and wear) one of the now-famous 'Eat More Kale' shirts. When it comes to meal planning for her family, her philosophy can be summed up in three words: "Easy. Pure. Tasty."
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