Yes, Vitamins Really Work

I woke up to an unpleasant sight this morning. It was an article entitled “Do Multivitamins Really Work?”, which proceeded to tell everyone that vitamins only work for a select deficient population; i.e. anorexics, older adults, vegans and vegetarians, people with darker skin or people with limited sun exposure, pregnant women, toddlers, and teen girls. I immediately forwarded the e-mail to my boyfriend, Brian, who is also interested in the world of nutrition and natural health. He told me he’d seen another negative article about vitamins in the same day. Well, if they will have their say, I have something to say, too.

First of all, I agree that supplements require regulation. Everything needs regulation. Look what happened to our economy when we deregulated. But, I digress. There are definitely low quality vitamins out there. Many low-quality vitamins. They may be synthetic, or they may lack high safety standards, and allow toxic substances to slip into the vitamins, including mercury, lead, herbicides, and pesticides. Some vitamins may not get absorbed before passing through your system. So, you need to do your research. But remember. . . , just because some restaurants have bad reviews, that doesn’t keep you from ever eating out.

Before I go into some of the points from the articles, I’d first like to speak personally. I have been taking a particular set of well-researched vitamins for a little over a year now, and I have experienced a difference. Examples:

  • Principally, when I don’t take them, I notice an energy difference. If I skip taking them with breakfast, I am more lethargic. In the classroom, I feel an actual difference in . . . the best I can describe it is. . . my overall being, or aura. My day starts to spiral downward. My energy is limited, I’m cranky and negative, and I lose classroom management. Once I take them at lunch, I feel revived. I’m on top of things, and I feel better about my day.
  • I have not been sick. Sure, I suffer the occasional sniffles, and come close during extremely high periods of stress, but I have yet to miss a day of work for sickness since I’ve been taking the vitamins. Now, I’m a pretty hardy person. I don’t get sick too often to begin with. But, I used to get particularly stuffed up around peak allergy seasons in late summer and early spring, but not anymore. And these last two years teaching have been extremely stressful, two of the most stressful in my nine years, and yet I have the best attendance record of my nine years.
  • My eye doctor complimented my eyes. He kept talking about how good they looked. Very healthy. To the point I started to think: “Is he hitting on me?” which seemed highly unlikely. And then I realized, maybe I just really have good-looking eyes! They say that your eyes are the window to your body. . .
  • My nails have been stronger, and my hair has looked healthier. Nuff said.

As to more of the two articles’ points:

1. “There is virtually no evidence that they make healthy people healthier.” Yes, there isn’t much readily available research out there, and much of the publicized research is done by pharmaceutical companies who would prefer that you continued to take their prescription drugs and avoided supplements, and it’s a shame that you really have to dig to find useful research. But, you will find the 2007 Landmark Study, which studied supplement users who took them for over 20 years(see visual).

2. Vitamin users are likely to get enough vitamins, just from the food they intake. This may have been the case in the past, but not anymore. With all of the damage that we’ve done to our now less nutrient-rich soil, the alterations we’ve made and the preservatives we’ve added to our food, and the extensive travel our food makes before it even gets to our supermarkets, there really isn’t much nutrition left in what you eat. The average travel time for food is one week, and food loses more nutritional value for each day it takes to get to your table.

3. It’s easy to overdose on vitamins with all of the fortified foods out there, and overdoses can have serious consequences, and “It rarely happens, but there have been case reports.”  Two points to note here. First, I would stay away from the “fortified foods”, cereals in particular. An experiment done on a particular “vitamin fortified” name brand led to the discovery that the iron fortification was actual iron shavings. Second, the “rarely happens, but there have been case reports” comment completely stunned me. Really. I suppose that it’s possible that some people have taken excessive amounts of vitamins and not felt well afterwards. I’m sure it has happened to some people. There are those rarely happening incidents. But how many people have died from vitamins? Zero. There are 2,000 deaths per year from unnecessary surgery, 7,000 deaths per year from medication errors in hospitals, 20,000 deaths per year from other errors in hospitals, 80,000 deaths per year from infections in hospitals, and 106,000 deaths per year from non-error adverse affects of medications. (The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2000) So, I like to look at it as, would you rather take measures to prevent future medical conditions or do you want to deal with treating a condition later, in the face of those statistics?

In closing, of course, you don’t have to take vitamins. I believe I really know what’s best for my own body, and you know what’s best for yours. As for me, I will continue taking vitamins, searching for organic and natural products and solutions, and shaking my head at the long list of side effects in prescription drug commercials and also at articles like today’s.

The Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 284, no. 4, July 26, 2000.

Image: Maggie Smith /

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