Always Go to Food for Nutrients First

Many of us have had days where we do not eat as healthy as we would like, and end up skipping essential nutrients.

It is not uncommon on those days for people to reach for a multivitamin capsule, thinking it will round out their daily nutrition. Some people choose to take supplements every day, thinking it will give their overall health a boost.

However, mounting evidence finds that this is not so, and that taking a supplement does not equate to getting the same vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food we eat. Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine states that there is no established benefit for healthy people to take a vitamin supplement.

Heather Mangieri, a registered dietician nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says, “these findings support the evidence-based position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that the best nutrition-based strategy for promoting optimal health and reducing the risk of chronic disease is to wisely choose a wide variety of foods.”

One study referenced in the Annals article analyzed data from three multivitamin trials and 24 trials of single or paired vitamins, administered to over 400,000 participants. Upon reviewing the data, “the authors concluded that there was no evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.”

Another referenced study evaluated the effect on cognitive decline of a daily multivitamin supplement on over 6,000 men over the age of 65. The health records of the men were followed for a period of 12 years, and the researchers found no difference in cognitive decline between the group receiving the daily multivitamins and the placebo group.

Furthermore, taking high doses of certain vitamin supplements may cause harm. The Annals states that, “evidence involving tens of thousands of people randomly assigned in many clinical trials shows that beta carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements increase mortality and that other antioxidants, folic acid and B vitamins and multivitamin supplements have no clear benefit.”

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics acknowledges that certain nutritional supplements may be important for certain individual health situations. However, according to surveys performed for the Annals article, most people in the US and around the world who take supplements do not actually need them.

Fruits and vegetablesAlthough it may seem like an easy fix at the time, taking a vitamin supplement does not make up for skipping your daily fruits and vegetables. Healthy eating on a consistent basis may be a challenge for some, but it is a worthy challenge: a kale salad and a couple of delicious smoothies will provide you with much more benefit than a tiny, synthetic capsule ever could.

Bottom line: unless you require a supplement for a specific health challenge, stick to the real stuff.

-The Alternative Daily

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