Gasp! Your multivitamin habit may be hurting you. Not to rain on your 1980s parade, but you may have been popping those iconic Flinstones vitamins in vain. Whether or not multivitamins and dietary supplements are necessary or even useful in our diets, has long been a point of contention to which there will probably never quite be a definitive conclusion. However, the argument isn’t so black and white. Dietary supplements are helpful, sometimes, but aren’t the Holy Grail when it comes to proper nutrition. In fact, a healthy, plant-based diet may just be enough to live a long and illness-free life!
The Dark Side of Dietary Supplements
A study published in April 2015 found that over-the-counter multivitamins may actually do more harm than good and can even play a role in increasing the risk of developing cancer and heart disease. One trial centered on observing the effects of beta-carotene supplements. Those who took more than the recommended dosage increased their risk of developing both lung cancer and heart disease by 20 percent. Another trial showed folic acid to increase the number of polyps in the colon, a condition that the B-vitamin is actually meant to prevent. While this study does not suggest that all multivitamins are harming you, it does shed light on the danger inherent in taking in an improper dosage of certain vitamins and minerals. And let’s face it, not all multivitamin brands are necessarily nailing the proportions.
Speaking of proportions and recommended daily allowances of certain vitamins and minerals, consider the individuality characteristic of dietary protocols. Every body requires different levels of vitamins and minerals based on their body’s needs – something your multivitamin is simply incapable of measuring.
Meanwhile, most dietary supplements are synthetic, man-made products that are not as easily recognizable by the body as whole foods, and thus make it hard for the body to digest. They are often laden with fillers and artificial ingredients that register as toxins by the body. What is the point of a multivitamin if your body won’t assimilate the good stuff?
Dietary Supplements Choke-hold
Even so, Americans are still clinging to their beliefs that vitamins are necessary. According to a 2013 study, over half of all Americans take a daily multivitamins, with the majority believing doing so will either improve or maintain their health. But determining whether a multivitamin does any of those things is a hard job, since most people who take multivitamins tend to already lead healthy lifestyles that include moderate alcohol consumption, regular exercise, and a resistance to smoking.
The takeaway is simple: if you are consuming a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and legumes, chances are you are nurturing your body with recommended daily intake values.
Dietary Supplements are Nature’s Bounty. Period.
Indeed, there is no denying that dietary supplements can play a significant, if not lifesaving, role–especially if you are dealing with a particular health ailment or condition (pregnancy, etc.). However, before you jump the gun and look to a multivitamin or other dietary supplements as a savior to your less-than-stellar diet, don’t fool yourself – multivitamins are a complementary, if at all necessary, addition.
At the end of the day, vitamin and mineral supplements can never take the place of eating a variety of healthy foods each and every day. Look to your diet first and find the missing link there.
Your body understands nature’s bounty of fruits and vegetables and plant-based goodies, and their complexity inner workings are for the most part beyond human comprehension – at least nothing a pill can replicate. Your body will take from foods what it needs and deposit what it doesn’t need.
In the event you do want to incorporate a multivitamin into your daily diet, please do your research and opt for whole food multivitamins that the body will more easily recognize.
And hey, wouldn’t it be nice to re-appropriate the $30-billion-per-year supplements industry in the U.S. to something else, like wellness education programs or supporting local organic farmers?!
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