Do they actually work and are you wasting your money?
Slimmer waist, more energy, shiny fast-growing hair, glowing skin and an all-round better life available now from your nearest pharmacy for the reasonable price of 5.99€! Sounds too good to be true? Because it is.
Unfortunately there is no regulated standard about what constitutes a multi-vitamin tablet and the nutritional composition varies largely according to the brand and product type. This leaves the perfect market for the pharmaceutical industry to create a perceived problem, i.e. deficiencies in diet, and then sell you the solution. Already 20-30% of Americans consume vitamin pills daily. : and to give you an idea of their lucrative potential, the sales of all dietary supplements in the United States totaled an estimated $36.7 billion in 2014.
We all know that they are supplements and not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle but can they really live up to the advertisers’ claims?
Studies show both yes and no. Vitamin and mineral supplements which are specifically taken to target deficiencies in diets have been proven to have positive results. For example the studies on the effects of Vitamin D and Calcium supplements on patients suffering form osteoporosis were largely positive.
But, in general, the feedback from the scientific and medical community about taking regular vitamin pills without medically diagnosed issue has been consistently and overwhelmingly negative. Often the advert will claim improvements, but on careful examination one often sees that the survey sample on which this success is based is very small, and the other variables that would affect the study aren’t even mentioned such as length of time taken, time of day, what other foods they were taken with and of course if the study was not ‘blind’ the placebo effects. However the picture gets worse, as there is also some evidence to suggest that multi-vitamin and mineral supplements could actually be harmful to health. Especially, if daily recommended doses are not respected and toxicities build up in the body.
So for those of us still looking to improve nutrition what options do we have?
Getting the results you want is never easy, and unsurprisingly you have to take a holistic approach. That weekly McDonalds isn’t going to be offset by one vitamin C tablet.
Rather than having another thing we’re not doing and can feel bad about, I think the best approach is taking baby steps.
Step one could be :Looking at the food groups you are and aren’t eating.
Step Two: Deciding on adding one healthy food group a month.
Step Three: Monitoring how you feel at the end of that month and deciding if the change introduced merits sustaining or ditching.
What needs to be remembered first and foremost is that there is no such thing as a quick fix for sustained good health and no pill can replace a healthy lifestyle. Lots of water, fruit, veg, exercise and most importantly fun and laughter will take you a lot farther than pills full of empty promises.