Vitamins and Supplements - More Harm Than Good?

By Chad Dupuis
Tagged in Lifestyle and Basics

As an "alternative" health practitioner my patients often expect me to suggest something along the lines of a strict vegetarian diet full of nuts and berries and accompanied by lots of "healthy" minerals and supplements.  I just as often surprise them when I make recommendations that are often contrary to popular trends and beliefs in nutrition.  The diet we often advocate is what my Chinese teacher, Master Tam, often calls the "eat like a human" diet.  I'll discuss some of the details of that in subsequent articles, but today I'm going to talk about vitamins and related supplements.

"Take the garbage out", is what Master Tam says when discussing vitamins - or, when he's busy, he'll just say "garbage!"   Now as much as I follow what my many esteemed teachers have said, some things are hard as they often contradict what we have been lead to believe and a little more personal research is required before changing ideas.  Supplementation is something that I've always been reluctant to firmly trust, however, so this wasn't as hard as some other things I've had to digest along the path of my Chinese medical training. 

The truth about vitamins is that the scientific research that has been done indicates very low possibilities that supplements do anything at all.  So why not take them - "no harm, no foul," right -- well, many studies indicate that they may be dangerous - even in the amounts consumed from a daily multi-vitamin intake.  And this is our general stance.

The studies, discussed in the articles and research links listed below, are, of course, a bit controversial.  Outside of scientific reasoning, any time you are dealing with a billion dollar industry you are going to receive some feedback from studies saying vitamins could shorten your lifespan.  Our view comes down to three major points:

1)  Eating a balanced diet with a range of -whole- foods is the only way to ensure you will get what you need (limit packaged food, foods with hormones, etc.). 

  • Common Response:
  • I don't eat well, that's why I take them...
    • Very few people in the western world can fall short on the basics that our bodies need, for the most part even people who feel they do not eat well, eat more than is necessary and are not short in any vitamins, etc.  Adding to that, more is not better.

2) The body is all about balance, so combinations of vitamins that would never occur naturally and large amounts of anything (fruit juices, etc.) are - un-natural.  They have you taking in more than you could possibly receive in a whole foods, natural format.

  • Common Reponse:
  • That makes sense, but I love my fruit juice, smoothie, etc....
    • Juices and concentrated foods, supplements, etc. are not healthy.  They put a tremendous strain on your body to absorb, process, and eliminate large amounts of substances that could never be taken in naturally in whole form - have you ever tried to eat 15 oranges in a single sitting?

3) Don't waste your bodies energy and your money.

  • Common Response:
  • How do I lose energy from taking vitamins - the money part I understand...
    • Everything that we put into our body has to be processed.  When we eat, we use our own energy to get more energy from our foods.  If, at best, vitamins are poorly absorbed and not highly beneficial, then you are paying money to put things in your body that use your energy to process and give you nothing back.  Not a good investment from our perspective.

People will have many opinions on articles such as these stating all kinds of information about vitamins, etc.  And, the research is mixed to be sure.  That said, following general common sense, the more we obtain from natural sources in natural formats the better - we are after all natural people.  So, rather than argue about vitamins, throw them in the trash, grap an apple, take a walk, and spend the money you are saving on something fun!  "Enjoy the life", as Master Tam says...

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Vitamins and Supplements - More Harm Than Good?

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Authored by: Chad Dupuis on 23 July 2008

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