October 11, 2011

Don't take vitamins.

"Multivitamins, folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron in particular appeared to increase mortality risk."

Eat food, people.

59 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

I don't take 'em. Glass of OJ in the morning, some carbs and proteins throughout the day, and if I'm good I'll eat a wonderful salad. Hopin' to live to 100!

PETER V. BELLA said...

"Food, glorious food..."

Timotheus said...

Increasing the death rate? To more than 100%?

Shanna said...

Conversely, calcium supplements appeared to reduce death risk.

Yes, many women need calcium supplements. Basically, multivitamin bad, right? Go see your doctor and have the blood test where they check your levels and don't worry about it if they are normal.

Shanna said...

Increasing the death rate?

Heh. I know that is a statistical/medical term with meaning, but it always throws me when I hear it. There used to be a commercial talking about the "death rate" for minorities being higher than for caucasians and every time I heard it I was thinking the same thing.

Mogget said...

Yeah, did you read the article? No serious effort was made to control for other factors and the study relied on patient memory over two decades for supplement intake. They may well be right, bit there's not much in the study itself to engender confidence.

Palladian said...

The cited "study" is totally bogus. It is based on women "recalling" which supplements they took over the last two decades. Another case of bad science, and bad science reporting, desperate for a headline.

Roger J. said...

What Palladian said--we live in what I believe to be an innumrate society fueled by the need of a 24 hour news cycle to pump up their ratings with bull shit.

Roger J. said...

innumerate rather than what I wrote--would hate be thrown into the illiterate segment of our society

EDH said...

For most of my adult life I've never taken my vitimins on a regular basis, mostly because I don't like to swallow the big multi.

So, this morning I had the bright idea to take them out of the kitchen and put them next to my computer, thinking if I'm right next to them for any period of time I will eventually take them at some point during the day.

After taking them, I clicked on Althouse and read this post. True story.

I've always wondered whether I should stagger the dose to every other day, at least for the individual vitamin supplements.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Ne quid nimis.

Bender said...

Eat food, people?

Don't you know that eating food also increases the mortality risk? Obesity kills more people than vitamins do.

But this is all just more of the same from the neo-Islamists of the left who want to take all of civilization back to the 8th century with no cars, no energy, no material goods, no more of the cheap high-calorie/high-fat food that has destroyed real poverty in the U.S., and now no more nutritional supplements to improve the health of people at low cost.

viator said...

The statist anti-supplement spin to be expected from the BBC home of all kinds unsupportable notions. There is a vast body of literature and experience that contradicts this opinion. Spina bififda, and now a range of conditions associated with low levels of vitamin D are just two arguments to the contrary. Easy to say one should get everything in their diet. Almost no one does. Food processing, time constraints, money, habits, government regulation all mitigate against obtaining a complete nutritional daily diet.

Honestly compare these guidelines to your diet. Any gaps?

USDA

AllenS said...

Last year I had a lot of blood work done at a VA clinic. I have a vitamin D deficiency. One of the causes of this deficiency is this:

You have dark skin. The pigment melanin reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.

I take a pill every morning, per my doctor. Chew on that.

themightypuck said...

If vitamins are so bad why do we put them in milk and flour. I love how the solution is always to eat a healthy balanced diet which is just begging the question.

Matthew said...

I think this applies, really, more to people who scarf down vitamins and other suppliments as if they were candy.

It's the by-product of a health-obsessed culture that perhaps more people overdose on Vitamin C or anti-oxidents than heroin.

It's true that you should be getting the bulk of your vits and mins from your diet, but it doesn't hurt to take an occasional suppliment. Maybe a multi-vitamin once or twice a week.

The watchword, as always, is 'moderation'.

I've been taking multi's and an extra dose of folic acid (for coronary artery disease) for about 10 years now, and feel better at 44 than I did at 34, and I still gorge myself on the four basic food groups (Red Meat, Caffeine, Sugar and MSG).

MarkG said...

Everything in moderation, including supplements.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Eat food, people.

So food and people are the only things we should eat?

ndspinelli said...

Common sense is in short supply in our culture. Thankfully the wise people here understand the concept of moderation..well most do.

Calypso Facto said...

"Eat food, people."

In that order?

Are people high in vitamins?

Paul said...

"I think this applies, really, more to people who scarf down vitamins and other suppliments as if they were candy."

This.

One word. Homeostasis.

ndspinelli said...

Allen, Many people now have Vitamin D deficiency. A very wise doc told me a major reason being we no longer eat organ meats. Liver, kidneys, etc. are rich in Vitamin D and were a staple in our diet up until the 1960's.

edutcher said...

The operative word, in both the article and the comments, is supplement. They're not meant to replace a good diet.

And a good high potency multi-vitamin will fill in the gaps of your eating habits.

PS What's the difference between a vitamin and a hormone?

You can't make a vita min.

Benny Hill, 1980

Class factotum said...

If vitamins are so bad why do we put them in milk and flour.

Because the processing to refine these foods removes much of the valuable nutrients. Whole wheat flour is not enriched because it doesn't need to be.

Palladian said...

ndspinelli is right on the money. Offal, eaten in moderation, is very good for you.

KLDAVIS said...

"ndspinelli said...
Allen, Many people now have Vitamin D deficiency. A very wise doc told me a major reason being we no longer eat organ meats. Liver, kidneys, etc. are rich in Vitamin D and were a staple in our diet up until the 1960's."

Mandatory foie gras supplements!

Based on the comments here, it sounds like the "study" and associate article are bogus. Aren't people who are/feel 'unhealthy' more likely to take vitamins/supplements? How can they possibly draw causation?

rhhardin said...

Study correlates health scares with magazine profits.

Cushing said...

Child bearing age women...please keep taking vitamins with folate. Very strong evidence shows it decreases spina bifida and other congenital neurodevelopmental diseases.

Crimso said...

"It's the by-product of a health-obsessed culture that perhaps more people overdose on Vitamin C or anti-oxidents than heroin."

I think more people overdose on acetaminophen than anything else (much of it unintentional). At least, that was the case as of about 10 years ago (it was both the #1 cause of overdoses resulting in ER visits as well as the #1 cause of acute liver failure).

You most certainly can take too much of some vitamins, but vitamin C appears to not be one. In fact, the LD50 for vit. C is not really known for humans but is instead surmised based on animal models. IIRC, the LD50 is estimated to be something like 2 lbs., and it is thought that the actual mechanism of death would be mechanical (your stomach ruptures) rather than chemical. Not that I believe all the claims about its benefits.

madAsHell said...

I have a vitamin B deficiency. I usually take it in doses of 12 oz.

If I'm really feeling poorly, then I up the dosage to 16 oz., and top that off with a tumbler of ole fugitol.

w/v: oksrve - OK, Serve me another

AllenS said...

I don't eat as much organ meet as I used to, but my dark complexion and age (65 next month), is probably what's the contributing factors.

Fred4Pres said...

I question these studies either way. An occasional supplement probably okay. Too much of anything is bad. The truth is you have to exercise some, eat a reasonably balanced diet, and avoid smoking and excessive drinking.

Eat more veggies. Fresh ones. Green, red, bright colors. But in the winter, frozen is fine too.

I do take fish oil. Unless you are eating a lot of salmon or sardines, a supplement is a good idea. But do what works for you.

Pogo said...

Bullshit study.

Worse than worthless.

But it sells.

Fred4Pres said...

I did note in the Omnivore's Dilema (and plenty of other books too) that beef became unhealthy because of beef cows having an unhealthy diet (too much corn, not enough grass). I am not sure that is entirely proven, but I suspect eating green grass (which cows evolved to eat) as opposed to process corn may make healthier beef. And they have found grass fed beef do high higher omega 3 levels than corn fed beef.

I find grass fed beef okay. I like the taste better. It can be tough, but generally it is okay. Friends of mine who raise steers tell me the key to tenderness is the speed that steers put on weight. Which is why feed lot steers are more tender than most grass fed cows.

So I would be curious how steers fattened up quickly on grass would fair on marbling/taste wise and on health (higher omega-3 fatty acids).

Fred4Pres said...

Too much Vitamin C results in a trip to the can. Too much Vitamin A will kill you.

But the best way to get vitamins remains eating fresh food.

Fred4Pres said...

ndspinelli, Vitamin D deficiency is also a product of us being inside more and when we go out covering ourselves with sun screen.

I have to say I prefer a supplement of D3 to a dish of beef liver. Sorry, I never really liked it. And given the liver is the oil filter of the body, I am not sure eating it is so healthy anyway.

AllenS said...

Fred, I used to raise beef cattle.
At first, I did my own butchering, but then had an outfit come out and they would do on-site butchering, then take the meat to the butcherer. They even used their own bullet, hauled everything away, except for the contents of the stomach. If you don't feed corn for a while before butchering, you will have a tougher cut of meat. Since I didn't need a whole cow in the freezer, I used to sell quarters. While a leaner cut of meat will sell, people still like a nice somewhat tender piece of meat.

Clyde said...

Mortality risk is, as always, 100%. It's only a question of when and how.

BigFire said...

Some of us have to take supplements. We don't have a choice.

Tibore said...

Single study, people! Single study. And it's correlative; no causative factor was identified.

And as the study said, some things weren't controlled for. What this study is is an interesting datapoint that can be used by other medical researchers in context with everything else that is known in order to determine the implications of supplement use. What it is not is an indication that people shouldn't use supplements. If anyone's reading it that way, they're reading it wrong.

No one should make medical judgements off of single studies. These findings must be taken in context with all existent knowledge about nutrition. It would be bad if someone whose diet is deficient in some manner to avoid supplements simply because of this one study. That would be taking a single data point as more important than all other points combined to date, and that's just illogical thinking.

Single study. No more. Implications are only determinable with context. And context is what's missing when you only look at one finding.

MikeR said...

"They are quick to stress that their study relied on the 38,000 US women who took part in it recalling what vitamins and minerals they had taken over the previous two decades." Jeepers. Really dumb. Ignore.

"In the study, iron tablets were strongly linked with a small (2.4%) increased death risk, as were many other supplements. The link with iron was dose-dependent, meaning the more of it the individual took, the higher their risk was.
Conversely, calcium supplements appeared to reduce death risk. However, the researchers say this finding needs more investigation and they do not recommend that people take calcium unless advised to by a doctor in order to treat a deficiency." Uh-huh. Do I detect a bias?

Keryn said...

As a mother of a son with spina bifida, I second the suggestion that child-bearing women take folic acid, a least in the prenatal vitamin form.

As for the rest of the article--yes, we should eat better foods, but this one study does not convince me on the risks of vitamins.

Kurt said...

ndspinelli and Palladian make excellent points about liver and other organ meats. Even as recently as twenty years ago, liver wasn't too hard to find in the grocery, but now it is difficulty to find, or you have to ask for it.

Of course, another alternative for vitamin D and vitamin A supplementation is to take cod liver oil, which was very commonly taken in the early twentieth century, but is now more of a curiosity for most people. Cod liver oil is also high in Omega-3s. I've never taken it, but have seen several references to it on health and nutrition blogs and websites I regularly consult and so I've been curious about it lately.

BJM said...

Folic acid? Really? A lack of folic acid is a contributing factor to neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.

Many younger women will take this advice and unfortunately the damage is done before the woman realizes she is pregnant, so a few cents worth of folic acid taken daily during child-bearing years can prevent a great deal of misery and suffering.

@Palladian...exactly, more crank science...I suggest reading Pauling and Lady Cilento's research instead.

Food in the modern supply chain is too far removed from the source and much of the nutritional value has leached away in transit and storage, you really cannot consume enough of some foods to come close to meeting a daily requirement.

I do think one needs to do sensible due diligence before taking supplements and find a credible quality manufacturer.

n.n said...

Consumption in moderation is the only known quantity. Even water and oxygen in concentration are toxic.

Alex said...

I prefer multivitamin & water as my whole diet. I don't like bodily waste functions at all. I haven't had a bowel movement in 20 years. Gross.

deborah said...

But be careful with iron, I understand that even fairly moderate amounts can mess with your red blood cell production (too much of) and in turn isn't good. Something like that.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Braunschweiger is your friend. Not everybody can stand liver; foie gras is expensive; but braunschweiger is tasty and good with mustard. (Especially in fall and winter.)

The only multis that really scare me are the pregnancy gummy vitamins. They warn the mother and mean it that she should only ever eat one dose, but we all know that it's difficult to eat just one gummy of anything. If I were a pregnant lady taking these (and why not, given the huge horse pill alternative), I would buy a bag of normal gummies and put them in the refrigerator next to the vitamins, in order to fight temptation.

(And definitely store them far away from kids.)

blake said...

But she said that generally, people should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals they needed from a healthy, balanced diet.

Evidence?

ndspinelli said...

Keryn, Thanks much for your heartfelt and personal story. Even before my bride knew she was pregnant she started eating oranges like they were crystal meth. I do the shopping and started buying those huge bags. Well, in a short time we learned she was pregnant and she got on the folic acid vitamis. I believe her body[and maybe a higher power] were telling her she needed extra folic acid.

Evil Otto said...

Eat food, people.

Can I eat Soylent Green instead? That way I only have to eat one meal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sp-VFBbjpE

Rick said...

Don't we all have the same mortality risk?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Enh, here in Oregon practically everyone is Vitamin D-deficient absent supplements, for obvious (weather-related) reasons. I take B-complex and calcium as well. Hasn't killed me yet.

wv: furstes. More like fifty-third-stes.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Matthew,

(Red Meat, Caffeine, Sugar and MSG

Heresy. The Four Food Groups are coffee, chocolate, garlic, and basil.

AllenS said...

Does beer represent a food group?

Tari said...

I love vitamins. I'm sure I err on the side of too many rather than too few, but my diet isn't what it should be all the time, so why not? Yes, I know which ones are water soluble and which ones are not, thank you. And I've never taken an iron supplement in my life: I eat far, far too much red meat to ever need one.

I also have one of the world's pickiest eaters in my care, and as long as he thinks fruit and veg are poisonous, he's taking a child's multi vitamin and a C every day. Even my older son, who eats much better than I do: he still gets vitamins. Sometime in the next year or so he's going to grow a foot, for heaven's sake. I think he needs all the help he can get. AND don't forget, they're both surrounded every day with nasty, icky schoolchild germs - especially since the schools are practically begging us to send our children in unless they have bubonic plague (fewer absences = more $$$). Vitamins are your friend. And hand sanitizer, too - no matter how disgusting it smells.

Matthew said...

It should.

David R. Graham said...

Multivits, etc. are food.

kaney said...

Needless to say, vitamins are very important for the treatment of a variety of diseases and disorders from head to toe. Ever since elementary school, the importance of vitamins as nutrients have already been emphasized and inculcated in our young minds. Each vitamin holds different benefits for the body.

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