We often times hear assertions that vitamin supplements are only making our urine more expensive. Assertions that vitamin supplements are essentially worthless and a complete waste of money! And then there is the complete opposite view. I certainly have been into contact with a lot of these kinds of very contradictory assertions. Not only on the internet but also coming from certified professionals and doctors.
So, naturally for every one of us coming into contact with these kinds of assertions and information, some questions do arise – do we need vitamin supplements? Do they help us to become better and healthier? Or are they just a complete waste of money?
In this article, I hope to clear this up so that by the end of it you’ll have all the tools you need to decide for yourself!
Be sure to read it till the very end as there is much to cover and I really do want to make this as throughout as possible. So, that not one confused soul is left behind. 🙂
Many Doctors & Professionals Assert That Supplements Are Worthless
Let’s start out by looking at the negative side of the argument.
There’s a whole constellation of people and media, who consider and assert that there is no use of supplements other than wasting your money. Here are some of the quotes.
“Nature’s foods are complete. To make a profit, manufacturers isolate out and concentrate nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, and sell them as expensive pills. The consequence is to create serious imbalances within the workings of your cells, and then diseases follow (including cancer, heart disease, and earlier death). Don’t risk your life and waste your money on these gimmicks.”
– Dr. John A. McDougall, physician and nutrition expert, author of several best-selling books, co-founder of Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods [R].
“I can’t overstate the benefit of eating real food. Having a wide range of vegetables in your diet will supply you with all the vitamins your body needs. Avoid supplements unless you have a diagnosed medical condition (..).”
– Dr. Brad McKay, Sydney based General Practitioner and the host of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under [R].
“Millions of people swear by vitamin supplements. But many are wasting their time and some could even be harming themselves.”
– Dr. Chris Rodolphe van Tulleken, one of the BBC’s leading science presenters [R].
“Consumers should expect nothing from [supplements] because we don’t have any clear evidence that they’re beneficial, and they should be leery that they could be putting themselves at risk.”
– Dr. Sydney Bryn Austin, professor of behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health [R].
“The industry tries to create the impression that we are deficient, but randomized trials show that we are not all deficient and we don’t benefit from supplements.”
“(..) We believe that the case is closed— supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”
– Eliseo Guallar (MD, DrPH), Saverio Stranges (MD, Ph.D.), Cynthia Mulrow (MD, MSc, Senior Deputy Editor), Lawrence J. Appel (MD, MPH) and Edgar R. Miller III (MD, Ph.D.) [R].
“Multivitamins provide no benefit to most people and instead just create very expensive urine.”
– Dr. Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association [R].
“There is no benefit for the average person taking multi-vitamins. (..) What you need is a good diet, you’re pissing the money down the toilet for no benefit.”
– Dr. Ken Harvey, the Adjunct Associate Professor of Monash University [R].
Essentially the same view is also shared by BBC News, BBC Future, CBS News, The Atlantic, The Health, The Vox, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Time, The USA Today, Today, Fox News, Cosmopolitan, Science-Based Medicine, News In Health, Medical News Today, Business Insider and many others [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].
However, while there are a lot of professionals, doctors and other authoritative sources (and these quotes and enumeration of experts and media are definitely not exhaustive), 99% of them agree that in some cases vitamin supplements are very needed.
There Are Many, Who Are in Between
Essentially, these sources don’t think that vitamin supplements are necessary in general. Meaning, they are of the opinion that all vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we need we can acquire from the food. However, they do insist on a need for some groups of people to take multivitamins and also vitamins in general.
Within this category falls all of the sources I mentioned previously with extremely rare exceptions and many, many more [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].
Here are some of the quotes.
“I take a multivitamin every day as a little insurance policy. (..) For certain groups of healthy people, especially those whose diet has nutritional gaps, a multivitamin can help fill in those gaps.”
– David A. Levitsky, a Cornell University professor of nutrition and psychology and also an outspoken critic of supplement industry scams [R].
“Vitamins in general for the average person aren’t a good thing or aren’t necessary, it may cause harm. There are clearly people, who need vitamins. Those are pregnant women, sometimes certain subsets of children and people with eye disorders. In those settings randomised vitamins have been shown to have a benefit.”
– David B. Agus, MD, professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and Viterbi School of Engineering and the founding director of USC’s Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine, specialized in treating patients with advanced cancer [R].
“The only supplement I routinely recommend is vitamin B12.”
– Dr. John A. McDougall, physician and nutrition expert, author of several best-selling books, co-founder of Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods [R].
“There are a few important cases where vitamin supplements can be useful, though: growing children between 6 months and 4 years old should take vitamins A, C & D. Very strict vegetarians may need supplementary vitamin B12, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also consider supplements – especially vitamin D and folic acid.”
– Dr. Chris Rodolphe van Tulleken, one of the BBC’s leading science presenters [R].
“Most of the vitamins and minerals we need are in food, and a healthy diet will likely get you close, but while you’re breastfeeding, taking a multivitamin can be your insurance policy.”
– Rebekah L. Huppert, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., a lactation consultant at the Mayo Clinic [R].
“With the exception of vitamins D and B12, we should strive to get our nutrients from produce, not pills.”
– Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on a number of important public health issues [R].
“Focus on food first. Maintain a varied diet. Once you take a snapshot of your diet, then figure out where to supplement to make sure you get everything you need. (..)”
– Dr. Douglas “Duffy” MacKay, N.D., senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition [R].
Therefore, essentially what we get out of everything mentioned in this chapter is simply this – you do not need multivitamin supplements and vitamin supplements in general, because you are getting everything nutrient-wise from your food. Whereas, other singular groups of people, like vegans, vegetarians, pregnant women, malnutritioned people need them, because they are beneficial to have in case you don’t have enough.
Therefore, in all essence, this view does assert that vitamins are not needed, if you have a healthy diet, but they are beneficial and are not just a waste of money if you fall into some of the human categories mentioned.
Thus, ultimately, this also defeats the argument that supplements just make our urine expensive and are completely worthless.
Therefore, there is really no argument that our bodies can’t acquire vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from multivitamins and vitamin supplements in general when they’re taken by mouth. Because they can, otherwise there wouldn’t be any group of people in existence that would benefit from supplements.
However, if you’re still not convinced. There are at least two more reasons, which nail this point completely.
First, There are many studies, which prove that one form of the vitamin is observed better than another in humans. And this is proved in many studies. Studies, which I also use to determine the most effective (bioavailable) vitamin form. This is mostly when I’m evaluating the multivitamin supplements and determining if they are or are not some of the best out there.
Second, what if we assumed the contrary – that the vitamin supplements can’t be absorbed when taken by mouth. However, if it was to be true, medicine shouldn’t work, because most medicine does include extremely high doses of certain vitamins, minerals or other beneficial substances that essentially are in the same forms that great supplements have.
But there is pretty much an infinite number of studies to prove that medicine taken by mouth is effective. Therefore, saying that our bodies do not absorb nutrients from supplements that are taken by mouth is completely and utterly absurd.
Be That As It May, Many Agree That We Need Vitamin Supplements No Matter Our Diet
To sum up the previous chapter, the common belief is that we can get everything we need nutrient-wise from the food that we eat. And then, if we don’t have something enough, we can supplement it.
However, what if it’s not true? What if it is not possible to get all of the nutrients one needs for optimal health just from food?
Well… There are quite many professionals, doctors and other authoritative resources that do believe that nowadays it is the case. Here are some of the quotes.
“I don’t think people need vitamins and they are a waste of money. . . That is only if they eat wild, fresh, whole, organic, local, nongenetically modified food grown in virgin mineral- and nutrient-rich soils and not transported across vast distances and stored for months before being eaten. And if they work and live outside, breathe only fresh unpolluted air, drink only pure, clean water, sleep nine hours a night, move their bodies every day, and are free from chronic stressors and exposure to environmental toxins.
Then we don’t need vitamins.
But, of course, I have described absolutely no one on the planet. In reality we all need vitamins.
Most people don’t understand the role of vitamins and minerals in our bodies. I certainly didn’t when I finished medical training.”
– Dr. Mark Hyman, a ten-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field, Director of Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The View, Katie and The Dr. Oz Show [R].
“It is so important to take quality, science-based vitamins because in this era of fast food and convenience over quality, there is no way for people to get all the vitamins and nutrients they need through food alone. Most people skip meals, eat unhealthy food on the run, and skip green veggies with all the great phytonutrients that are essential for optimal health. I’m a strong believer that everyone should get a little help no matter how healthy or unhealthy they eat. There is more processed food and GMOs on the market, and all the good stuff is being pulled out of our food to make things quick and easy. Good, quality vitamins and supplements are a great source of those missing nutrients.”
– Latreal Mitchel, one of the top Celebrity Fitness Trainer/Health Coaches in the industry, founder and CEO of Fitness Bunch Foundation, the Trainer On Call and Columnists for Good Housekeeping Magazine and the Health & Fitness Ambassador for Proctor & Gamble’s Meta Brand [R].
“The answer I always give to the question of do we need vitamin supplements is this: We don’t need indoor plumbing, but why on earth would we want to do without it? We need vitamins to exist and vitamin supplements are an excellent, high-tech way to deliver the nutrients our body needs to survive and thrive. Can we live without supplements? Sure. But we’re highly likely to be missing some essential nutrients and almost certain to have less than the optimal amounts of many others.”
– Dr. Jonny Bowden (or The Nutrition Myth Buster), nationally known expert on weight loss and health, best-selling author of 15 books, board certified by the American College of Nutrition, contributor to television networks, New York Times, People, Us, O the Oprah Magazine, In Style, Vanity Fair Online, People, GQ, Forbes Online, Clean Eating, the Huffington Post and countless others [R].
“Do you take a multivitamin every day? If not, you should. Research conducted on more than 9,000 study volunteers over several years proves once and for all that multis do exactly what they claim to do: prevent shortfalls of essential vitamins and minerals in the general population.
Multivitamin use has declined in recent years, as people apparently believe that eating a good diet will provide all of the vitamins and minerals they need for good health. But this simply isn’t the case. For starters, most people don’t eat as well as they should. Second, food isn’t as nutritious as it once was. Soils are depleted of nutrients, food storage and transportation processes can be questionable, and a host of environmental factors from pesticides to other pollutants play a role as well. Bottom line? Taking a quality multivitamin daily fills the gaps in your nutrition and bolsters your chances of robust health.”
– Dr. Julian Whitaker, the authority of alternative medicine, many awards winning doctor, author and co-author of 13 books, founder of the Whitaker Wellness Institute [R].
“In an ideal world, we would all eat very low-processed, organic and nutrient-dense diets filled with all sorts of foods that provide us with the vitamins we need. But this isn’t always possible or realistic for many (..). That’s why it’s important to get as much of the best vitamins for men as possible in your diet, just as it’s crucial for the opposite sex to obtain the best vitamins for women, many of which overlap due to these damaging deficiencies. (..) Estimates show about 75 percent of women would likely develop nutrient deficiencies if supplemental multivitamins didn’t exist.”
– Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist, physician for many professional athletes, author of several bestsellers, founder of the functional medicine center in Nashville, founder of the Essential Oil Institute and founder of one of the most visited natural health websites in the world at DrAxe.com [R, R].
“Supplements – in my book, they’re essential health-boosters that can help fill in nutritional gaps and protect your body against the occasional diet slip-up. While they won’t make up for a bad diet, think of supplements as your nutritional pit crew, standing at the ready to make those quick adjustments, tweaks and fixes to your internal engines and get you back out on the road, raring to go.
Fact of the matter is, with so much of our food grown in soil that’s depleted of nutrients, it’s tough to get the necessary nutrition from food alone. Furthermore, if your meal features foods that have been genetically modified, sprayed with pesticides, processed, packaged and trucked long distances, most of the nutritional value has been lost by the time it hits your plate. So our bodies wind up being overfed with empty calories – and starved of nutrients.
While I recommend everyone should eat whole, preferably organic foods or from farmers’ markets, I also believe that supplements are important as well.”
– Dr. Frank Lipman, widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, author of five bestsellers, founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center and Be Well [R].
Furthermore, there are a number of other professionals, doctors, and authoritative sources that suggest that this new approach is the best and most beneficial one [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].
Thus, if our food does not provide us with all the nutrients we need, then preferably we would need a potent, great, amazing or whatever you want to call it, but in essence a really good supplement. And it couldn’t be just any supplement, because, if we don’t have enough of everything, we have to improve the amounts of everything. And there is not really any other best way how to do it, but to get a multivitamin.
Therefore, ultimately, if it is really that way that our food is not nutritious enough for optimal health, it should be visible from studies on multivitamins. Because, if we don’t have enough for great health, supplementation, in theory, should improve our health.
But The Science Is Not That Straight Forward, Referring To It As ‘Quite Confusing’ Would Be An Understatement
So, essentially we need to settle this with a study on whether multivitamins work, or in other words, improve our health.
In existence, however, you’ll find many studies and many articles citing these studies, thus reporting that multivitamin supplements do not work. In other words, pretty much all resources that I mentioned in the chapter on opinions against vitamin supplements are based on one and the same list of studies [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].
So Do Multivitamin Supplements Work Or Not?
There is one significant difference between all the studies suggesting that multivitamins don’t work and studies suggesting that multivitamins do work.
Most studies suggesting that supposedly multivitamins don’t work haven’t really been done with multivitamins. Well, they have, but not in the same sense that people typically understand the term “multivitamins”.
In those studies, multivitamins are “more than one vitamin”. Meaning that essentially all these studies have been done by making people to take a supplement that contains 2-3 vitamins, which they call then multivitamins.
Whereas, as far as I know, most people (myself included) with multivitamins understand vitamin and mineral complexes that contain either all or most of the vitamins and minerals a human body needs daily.
Essentially, these studies are not wrong when calling those substances multivitamins. This is because technically ‘multi’ stands for more than one. 2-3 vitamins or more than one vitamin is, therefore, a multivitamin.
However, the results of these studies are also attributed to all multivitamins. Also to multivitamins in a sense of vitamin and mineral complexes that contains either all or most of the vitamins and minerals a human body needs daily.
But there is one thing that is crucial to remember and understand here – “The results will never be correct, if the variables you provide to the world’s smartest super-computer are wrong”. Meaning, there can never be a correct answer, if the items do not have the correct values, so to say. Or, there can never be a definite and correct result of a study, which has the wrong study subject.
Therefore, studying a large group of people, who are given ‘multivitamins’ (2-3 different vitamins) over a long period of time and ultimately concluding that it did not produce good results for the people is something quite self-explanatory.
You see, supplementing only with few vitamins can lead to an overall disbalance within our organisms. Which then over a long period of time will more than likely bring more harm than good. Which also these studies prove.
Another thing to know is that in a lot of those studies that as if prove multivitamins do not work, people were given doses higher than Upper Tolerable Intake Levels for very long periods of time (I might be slightly off here as I couldn’t fully access all of the studies).
Upper Tolerable Intake Levels are simply the highest amount of a particular nutrient intake (daily) that poses no risk of adverse effects, if used for very, very long periods of time, essentially, for a lifetime.
Therefore, possibly all of these studies simply prove that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And also that Upper Tolerable Intake Levels actually mean something, to say the least.
In other studies supposedly proving that multivitamins do not work, people are given low-nutrient-random-additive-or-harmful-additive multivitamins. These are multivitamins that provide many of the daily needed vitamins and minerals, but in doses that are considered as the minimal daily doses to not develop the disease. But this is pointless and guaranteed to not provide any noticeable benefit (see Prime Daily Values).
Furthermore, by far most of the time these kinds of supplements contain cheap and inefficient nutrient forms that our bodies struggle to convert. And also they contain harmful additives that purely as of themselves can rob you from any feelable benefit.
Another thing that studies, which proclaim multivitamins being placebo, don’t account for is what people are actually eating while consuming these multivitamins.
I have touched upon this earlier in other articles, but essentially, if you don’t improve your eating habits, with the right supplements you will experience some benefit. However, it will be nowhere near the kind of benefit you could have if you were to give up on certain very harmful additives that are often times added to the food. Generally, any additive that is bad in a supplement, should also be avoided in food.
Vitamins And Minerals Are Needed For Our Biochemistry
So, what are vitamins and minerals? What is their role in our in bodies, for our minds?
“Vitamins are organic compounds that are needed in small quantities to sustain life.” With the exception of vitamin D, our bodies can’t produce vitamins themselves. Therefore, they must be acquired through what we consume. And the same it is with minerals [R, R, R, R].
On the other hand, if we don’t acquire enough, our bodies depending on the amounts acquired can either perform limited amount or none of the functions associated with a certain nutrient so that our bodies and minds would operate optimally and flawlessly (see Prime Daily Values).
It is quite impossible to disagree that vitamins and minerals are not something crucial that everyone needs in order to survive and to function at their best. You won’t find one professional, who would not agree with this.
Harsh Truth About Our Everyday Food
Do we get less from our environment than we used to? Well, you can’t really argue with this one.
The food is rarely grown locally and most of the time is transported across vast distances – that’s a fact. In the process, food loses nutrients.
The food that we can finally purchase is by far most of the time stored for months before it’s available to us – that’s a fact. This is another way how food loses.
The meat we eat has rarely been grown in the wild. By far most of the time these animals are kept into captivity fed whatever that is for the companies the cheapest to feed them. Ultimately, making that meat way less nutritious than it used to – that’s a fact.
Most people do not work or live outside. More often than not we are bound to sitting jobs, we rarely find time to exercise every day – another fact.
We don’t breathe fresh unpolluted air, drink only pure, clean water, sleep nine hours a night – yet another fact.
Most of us have to deal with high chronic stressors every day. We are more often than not exposed to environmental toxins and pollution more than we’d like to. Again – facts.
All of these facts do influence the number of nutrients that we can get from the food that we ultimately purchase. And that is something that I’ve also felt on my skin.
A Healthy Diet Only Is Not Enough
As I initially turned to a healthy lifestyle and diet, I wasn’t able to get the right supplements or any supplements for that matter. Generally, it was because the healthy diet is undoubtedly more hard on the budget and I simply couldn’t afford the proper supplements.
By a healthy diet I mean, no processed foods, no gluten products, no dairy products, no coffee, no alcohol, no smoking or drugs, no processed sugar. All I ate for that initial period of time (and still am, but I would lie, if I said that I never slip-up) was vegetables, fruits, berries, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, grains and anything else that I failed to mention that is a fresh, unprocessed and in the nature accessible product.
And I felt better! Well, not initially as my body and mind were detoxifying. But afterward, I felt much better than before. At the same time though, people always said to me that I look worn-out and constantly exhausted.
However, after I was able to add proper supplements to my daily routine – a real breakthrough happened (here’s my full story).
And I’m not the only one, who experiences improvements.
World’s Highest Paid & Most Followed High-Performance Coach, Best Selling Author of Many Books Brendon Burchard describes supplementation as one of the life hacks that the World’s Most Successful People – millionaires, billionaires and all high performers in general – use.
But what’s more important – what do you think? Do we need vitamin supplements?
Do YOU need vitamin supplements?
The choice is completely yours.
But either way here’s an article on some of the most awesome multivitamin supplements that I’ve ever come across.
And if not sure, just try them. You can quit anytime if for you they don’t prove to be worth consuming.
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Have An Awesome Day!