Supplements are a mainstay health product in the western world.
In fact, the phrase ‘take your vitamins’ is literally seen as pure, sage, old-fashioned, holistic health advice that the average person is highly likely to regard as true.
However, is it possible that supplements just aren’t as useful as we’ve given them credit for being?
In a recent report published on CNN Health, the question was raised (and not for the first time, we might add)—are we wasting our money on supplements?
And the surprise of it is that the answer just might be a ‘yes.’
We actually may be doing exactly that.
On Tuesday, June 21, 2020, The United States Preventive Services Task Force said in its updated guidelines that vitamin, mineral, and multivitamin supplements aren’t likely to protect you from cancer, heart disease, or overall mortality.
To some degree, this isn’t much of a surprise.
Even back in 2014, their official position on the stance was lackluster.
They basically said that if you’re a healthy nonpregnant adult, there really isn’t sufficient evidence to show that taking vitamin E, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin B3, vitamin C, selenium, or vitamin B6 have any benefits to extending your life.
And since that recommendation, they’ve reviewed 84 different studies, testing vitamins in approximately 700,000 people.
52 of these studies were even new studies.
And yet, even with all of this research, their lackluster stance on vitamins didn’t change.
What does this mean?
Should we stop taking vitamins? Is it a complete waste of time?
These are excellent questions.
The CNN report went on to quote Dr. Jeffrey Linder, who is the Chief of general internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“Lifestyle counseling to prevent chronic diseases in patients should continue to focus on evidence-based approaches, including balanced diets that are high in fruits and vegetables and physical activity…” is what Dr. Linder said.
Some examples that the report gave of actual evidence-based approaches to health and wellness included:
- Consuming the Mediterranean diet
- Consuming the DASH diet
- Getting exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- And avoiding smoking
The report also went on to say that some people actually do need vitamins.
For example, pregnant women should take a daily supplement of folic acid to help prevent neural tube birth defects.
It’s also true that some seniors may need to supplement with vitamins B12 and B6, since our bodies lose the ability to absorb those from foods as we age.
But really, in the grand scheme of things, this news really plunges a dagger into the heart of the idea that we should all be taking a bunch of supplements on a daily basis to be healthier and live longer.
It seems that diet, exercise, quality sleep, and avoiding dangerous unhealthy habits and activities are really the keys to health and wellness.
As it turns out, for the most part, supplements may actually just be little more than a gimmick—and at best, minimally helpful.