A recent controversial article
, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” was published in the New York Times on why it’s harmful to take vitamins.
While some of the information is valid, much of the information is misconstrued and based on poor, outdated, and incomplete scientific evidence.
My Review of “Don’t Take Your Vitamins”
First, the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) that the government has set are outdated and inaccurate. The RDAs are based on very small studies from the 1930’s and 1940’s. They also only recommend the very, very bare minimum of vitamins and minerals to prevent major diseases.
They have nothing to do with optimal functioning.
The article also cites several studies linking vitamins A, C, E, beta carotene, and selenium to illness.
These studies are valid; it’s a long known fact that if your antioxidant levels are too high, chronic fatigue results.
After all, we do need some oxidants, which are stressors that affect our cells in a good way, in order for the body to function well.
For instance, exercise is an oxidant and a positive stressor, because although it is destructive in the short-term, the body adapts against this force by building strength and health over the long-term.
On the flip side, a huge excess of oxidants, like overtraining, stress, environmental chemicals, lack of sleep, and toxic food, can be destructive and tip the scales towards too much inflammation.
With the majority of our country dealing with this overloaded state of oxidants, it is very difficult to achieve optimum wellbeing solely with food.
Even if we are eating well, the nutrient quality of our food system has declined 5% to 40% in the last 50 – 70 years (Davis, 2009). This is due to poor soil quality, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, foods modified for sweetness rather than nutrient density, and long shipping distances.
Additionally, the article mentions the harmful effects of supplementing with vitamins A and E, specifically citing a New England Journal of Medicine study linking beta-carotene intake to lung cancer or heart disease.
This is also true.
Vitamins A and E do have known side effects in patients when they are in a SYNTHETIC form.
Synthetic vitamins are isolated, mere shadows of the real form of vitamins found in our food. Without cofactors and other elements, synthetic vitamins don’t operate or assimilate in the body like the natural forms. It’s quite predictable for trouble to result from synthetic vitamins.
Keys to a High Quality Supplement
To ensure a high quality supplement, I always insist on the following:
1) The supplement must be in its natural form in a proper ratio (how it’s found in nature), along with cofactors. This has a powerful mechanism of action inside the body.
2) The supplement must be approved by third party independent, clinical studies to prove its effectiveness (extremely rare or impossible for common or synthetic supplements).
3) The manufacturer must prove good quality control according to the Common Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), which assures proper design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and facilities.
4) Each batch must be independently verified, with harvesting done at peak maturation, and the raw material processingmust occur within 24 hours according to the German Commission E guidelines. In addition, I check for the analysis of the raw product before encapsulation, at encapsulation, and at the expiration date. Finally, I look for data on the breakdown time within the human body, as well as assimilation time within the body.
5) The supplement must not contain pesticides or other additives.
Supplementing the Right Way
Consuming nature’s wonderful antioxidants in brightly colored foods is the best way to benefit from the power of vitamins; however, when genetics, aging, sickness, and past and current health histories are involved, supplementation may be necessary.
The keys to supplementation, ultimately, are to fill in the gaps with the highest quality, natural forms of vitamins and minerals, and to supplement based on your own unique needs.
In general, I recommend a basic, daily multi-vitamin in its natural form for optimum wellbeing.
The best multi-vitamins from companies that I have personally visited, verified, and have seen work on my patients, are made by Metagenics, Orthomolecular, and Heel.
Metagenics’ newest multi-vitamin, which is carried in Nature’s Remedies, is especially one of my favorites, because it is a 21st century vitamin designed to protect against heavy metals, estrogenic compounds, and other toxins.
While there is no one-size fits all for supplementation or health, there are constants for optimum wellbeing: Eliminate foods you’re sensitive to, eat a mostly plant-based, Mediterranean Diet (with foods as fresh as possible); take a great, foundational multi-vitamin, and supplement for your individuality!