Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More bad news for vitamin supplements

Vitamin supplements seem like a good idea on paper, but there's (still) not much science linking them to health benefits. According to a recent report at the NY Times, "in the past few years, several high-quality studies have failed to show that extra vitamins, at least in pill form, help prevent chronic disease or prolong life."

Last year, studies found vitamins E and C couldn't lower rates of heart disease. Another study found vitamin E and selenium were useless against prostate cancer. Most recently, an exhaustive study of multivitamin use among 161,000 women found the supplements didn't lower heart disease or cancer risk.

But Americans keep shelling out billions every year for dietary supplements. Twenty-three billion dollars, to be exact, reports the Times. Said one doctor, "I'm puzzled why the public in general ignores the results of well-done trials."

How about this: who doesn't want to believe we can live longer, healthier lives by merely taking a couple pills each day? It sure beats dragging yourself out of bed at 4AM to jog every day or saying no to doughnuts, ice cream and nacho cheese.

How about this: it's better to be safe than sorry, right?

Not so fast. Some tests show beta carotene supplements can increase lung cancer rates and folic acid can boost your risk of precancerous polyps.

For what it's worth, in test tubes, "cancer cells gobble up vitamin C."

What's the answer? The same thing
Pound360 has been babbling about for years, a healthy diet and exercise. According to the Times write up, "scientists suspect that the benefits of a healthful diet come from eating the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the individual vitamins found in it."

Now, before you toss out all your supplements, one expert noted, "vitamin D looks really promising." Speaking of vitamin D…
check out Pound360's indispensible collection of vitamin D posts.

(image by
erix! via Flickr)

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.