Nutritional supplements are a $300 billion a year industry in the US. Almost all of that money is wasted.
Study after study finds no health benefits of multivitamins and other supplements. The latest, an exhaustive review of research focused on cardiovascular health, is damming for those pushing vitamins.
I’ll admit it. I take a multivitamin every day and think I’m taking care of myself. Like almost everyone else, I’m sold on the idea that this chalky little pill (actually, it’s a pretty big pill) will help keep me healthy.
Only it doesn’t.
The research, published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examines evidence of the effects of nutritional supplements and dietary interventions on cardio-vascular health. No improvement was found in mortality or cardiovascular outcomes in those taking supplements.
The exceptions were omega 3s and folate, which did improve heart health. On the other hand, calcium and vitamin D, when combined, led to an increase in the risk of stroke.
Still, people will spend billions on the very supplements revealed to be useless or even harmful. As the active ingredients in the pills pass through their systems without being absorbed, the best users end up with is expensive urine.
We live in an age where science has so improved our quality of life and research has pretty clearly established which treatments are beneficial to our health and which are not. And we don’t listen.
Instead we put our faith in untested claims and bias-tainted research put forth by the supplement industry.
Why do we listen to marketers and ignore scientists?
We seem hell bent on making an end run around the advances and successes of modern medicine in a quest for interventions that are more natural, as if supplements manufactured in labs and factories are more natural that what the doctor prescribes.
Other non-scientific therapies have been found just as wanting as supplements.
People tout the health benefits of ayurvedic medicine from south Asia. Ironically, medical schools are full of south Asians learning modern western medicine.
The march toward homeopathic treatment has stopped in France, where this month the national health service announced they will no longer pay for homeopathic treatments.
Because they don’t work.
Still, armed with dubious data from internet searches and money motivated hucksters we think we know better. All of this evidence against supplements can’t be right, can it? We keep taking them.
Modern western medicine has extended lifespans and improved quality of life to the point that we are potentially the healthiest humans ever. The diseases on the rise that do kill us early are largely lifestyle-based and can be prevented by good living.
It’s odd that so many people trust their health to supplements and alternative treatments that are so much less effective for maintaining good health than science proven therapies.
If you truly want to be healthy, eat right, sleep well, manage stress and get some exercise. And save your money.