Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines about a new study that concludes that women who take multivitamins don’t live longer as a result. There are so many things wrong with such a study that are not apparent to the news media people who are charged with writing about them that it’s hard to know where the start taking exception. So, bear with me, this may take more than one post:
First, this study was based on asking women whether they took a multivitamin. All multivitamins are not created equal, and most of the multivitamins that women purchase are from Wal-Mart, Costco, CVS, Walgreens, and the like, and are mass-produced at the lowest possible quality with the paramount concern being money, not optimal health.
A better study would distinguish between the effects of high-quality, high potency multivitamins and your average one-a-day that contains artificial colors and the minimal possible dose of each nutrient.
Second, the study shouldn’t have been asking if women who take multivitamins live longer. It should have asked if women who take high quality, high potency nutritional supplements live better. Length of life could easily be affected by other factors more than by vitamins: your genetics, your diet, and wearing your seat belt are just a few examples. But can a top-of-the-line nutritional supplement help you live better? Of course it can. I see it everyday in my holistic medical practice: proper nutrition helps fight stress, improves immunity, retards aging, and helps keep you in balance.
Third, we have to agree with one important point in the study. Just taking a multivitamin doesn’t work. The best results, by far, come from a combination of supplemental nutrients along with correct diet and living. Drink to excess? Just taking a puny one-a-day from the drug store won’t compensate for that. Eat lots of sugary and fried junk food, an excess of saturated fat and salt, and not enough fruits and vegetables? Even a high-potency multivitamin isn’t meant to make up for that—although you’re better off taking it than not. Do you have a super-stressed out lifestyle where you don’t get enough sleep, don’t enjoy fulfilling social contact with others, and feel no deeper purpose to your life? There’s not a pill in the world that can overcome the effects of our grinding and sometimes dehumanizing world.
True health is holistic. So a better study would have looked more deeply into the important factors which a professional quality multivitamin is meant to complement, instead of simply assuming that all people, and all multivitamins, are the same.
This isn’t the first study, and it won’t be the last, in which the authors pat themselves on the back for getting the answer they wanted when they asked the wrong question. It is all the more frustrating when the media goes along for the ride, armed with almost no useful information about holistic health, diet, supplements, and how to properly analyze a scientific study.
We’ll continue to take our supplements, because there’s so much science that says they do work. More on that to come.