The Vitamin Myth: Why we think we need supplements

Vitamin C Pill

Vitamin C (Photo credit: Ferenc Szutor)

Click here to read a thought provoking article from “The Atlantic” website.

Vitamins and supplements have become such a widely accepted and unquestioned part of natural healthcare it’s easy to forget that the whole idea of them is relatively modern and that the science behind them is hotly debated.

This is a topic that is worthy of deeper exploration but here are a couple of quick thoughts.

1. Just because a little bit of something is good it doesn’t mean that lots of it is better. Small amounts of vitamins such as found in fresh, whole foods are unquestionably good for you- but that doesn’t mean that taking huge amounts of these vitamins in a pill is also going to be good for you. Too much of a good thing can be bad.

2. Just because lots of something is bad for you it doesn’t mean that a little bit of it isn’t okay. A lot of vitamins and supplements target ‘free radicals’ which can cause cellular oxidative damage and are associated with inflammation. There’s little doubt that excessive chronic amounts of oxidative damage and chronic inflammation is bad for your health but it’s important to remember that in most cases these are natural events caused by natural physiological processes. The chemistry of all this goes way over my head but it seems likely that free radicals and inflammation generally serve as a natural trigger for your body to initiate repair and healing responses. So perhaps by artificially suppressing these chemicals with supplements the body doesn’t get a chance to exercise its’ own healing mechanisms.

It’s interesting reading the comments below the article- it turns pretty nasty quite quickly! I guess it’s obvious that the science of vitamins isn’t at all settled. I think that vitamins and supplements do have a role to play in keeping us healthy but the research is definitely clear that the old idea of popping a multi-vitamin pill every day is not the way forward.