During my now rather lengthy professional career, I’ve been hearing the same song-and-dance from conventional physicians about vitamins. It’s a variation on the theme “our food is plenty nutritious by itself” (now proven untrue) or “you just end up having nutritious urine” (the B vitamin riboflavin colors urine a dazzling yellow).
But this doesn’t mean vitamins have done nothing along the way. Even now, few doctors routinely encourage their patients to take vitamins. And just try getting your health insurance company to contribute a dime toward supplements.
Finally, in the November 27, 2006, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers acknowledge that if you want to increase your chances for a healthy long life, you need to pay attention to the vitamins in your diet. Why this insight into the obvious should have taken them so long eludes me.
They were analyzing a specific group: women 65 and up who had reported some impairment in performing what’s called the activities of daily living (ADLs). This impairment could be anything: “too tired to do housework,” “can’t concentrate of the bills,” and the like. Researchers took blood samples from this group and measured levels of just about everything you find in a good multiple vitamin pill.
The results (especially to regular readers of these Health Tips) were pretty much what you’d expect: there was a good correlation between the degree of day-to-day impairment and low levels of certain vitamins, notably B-6, B-12, selenium, D, and antioxidants.
Of course, the researchers dare not say something so radical as “the conclusion of this study is you’d be wise to take a good multivitamin,” even though I’d guess that they do so themselves. Instead, they hem and haw with the following closing statement, “These results do not imply a beneficial effect of nutritional supplementation on the prevention of disability but rather suggest that nutritional status is one of the key factors to be considered for the development of strategies aimed at preventing or delaying the onset of disability, and consequently for the improvement of health and the quality of life.”
Don’t they sound more like politicians than physicians? A couple of weeks ago, you learned in these Health Tips that fruits and vegetables now contain lower levels of vitamins than fifty years ago. This means your “nutrition” needs “supplementation.” As in nutritional supplements.
I’ve been taking a high-potency multiple vitamin for decades (dazzlingly yellow urine and all). There are a lot of good brands available, but by and large the “minimum wage” one-a-day type tablets aren’t very good.