Being raised on whole-grain homemade bread, farm fresh eggs, fresh yogurt, garden produce and, of course, raw milk was a matter of logic to my progressive mother who followed 20th-century author and nutritionist Adelle Davis.
Sixty years ago, fast foods were starting to change urban life but not for her family. After we left home, Mum consumed 10 to 12 vitamins and minerals daily, as did my father. Since then, extensive research indicates they weren’t needed and could actually damage their system. The family consumed only quality food, and meals were rarely skipped. I envied those with white bread sandwiches. But the day I convinced a friend to trade sandwiches with me so I could taste white bread was the day I appreciated how fortunate I was and started toward my career path.
My degree focused on food science, research and nutrition and then on to registered dietitian/nutritionist. The science of how the body functions continues to fascinate me, and I continue to be amazed at what people expect of “nutrition.”
People consume supplements without thought of what is being put into their stomachs, either because they don’t care or because they take extensive amounts of supplements (in addition to a decent food intake) in hopes of curing disease, prolonging life, losing weight, building muscle or increasing energy. Rarely is there careful thought or logic applied. How can one pill duplicate the natural intricacies of food? Doesn’t the process and use of chemicals bother anyone when selecting these supplements? How a strawberry digests and interacts with other foods and the gut can never be reproduced by a supplement. Interaction is a critical part of effective digestion.
People complain about the cost of groceries but are willing to spend more than $37 billion annually for 90,000 various vitamin and mineral supplements that are not regulated and have been repeatedly proved to not be beneficial, and actually harmful at times. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not monitored or controlled by the Food and Drug Administration and some are laced with questionable contents, which do not appear on the label. In 2016, reaction to supplements was responsible for more than 23,000 emergency room visits and resulted in 34 deaths. Have you ever wondered about the nutritional training of the person recommending your supplement purchase?
According to extensive research reviews, there are numerous supplements to be avoided because of potential harm, including multivitamin tablets; vitamins C, D and E; probiotics; fish oil; ginseng; tea extract; antioxidants; and gingko. Real food, whether cooked or raw, is most effective. Lean protein, fruits and vegetables provide more for less. We fear chemicals used on our produce, then consume large quantities of supplements with no concept of how they were prepared or with what.
According to 2013 Gallup Poll, more than half of Americans take a vitamin supplement. As we age, we take more. Yes, 68 percent of adults 65 and older take a supplement and 29 percent of those 65 or older take four or more supplements (Journal of Nutrition, 2017). There is absolutely no conclusive evidence or research that supplements prevent chronic disease. Actually, studies overwhelmingly refute any increased health benefits from vitamin and mineral supplements and have found supplements increase cancer risk and decrease rather than extend life, according to research by the Cleveland Clinic. Since 1999, the National Institute of Health has spent more than $2.4 billion studying vitamins and minerals, only to find they do more harm than good.
Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.