By Briana Kerensky
Men and women in the United States spend more than $23 billion dollars per year on vitamin supplements. And in 2009, the Nutrition Business Journal released a report stating that the recession actually brought about an 8 percent, or $9.2 billion increase in sales. As the economy tanked but the high price of medical services stayed steady, people tried to take their health into their own hands. An apple a day to keep the doctor away? How about some Zinc and vitamin D tablets instead?
But recent studies show that supplements really can’t do for a person what decent food and exercise can. American foods and beverages are always being fortified with vitamins. Orange juice with extra calcium. Fruit gummies with vitamin C. Are vitamins really necessary to ward off illnesses?
In February 2009, researchers from the Women’s Health Initiative published a report showing their results after tracking eight years of multivitamin use in more than 161,000 older women. While multivitamins are often advertised as having the ability to lower the risk for heart disease and some cancers, the Women’s Health Initiative found no such benefit. And while many men thought that daily doses of vitamin E and selenium could lower the risk of prostate cancer, another study proved that wrong as well.
“We call them essential nutrients because they are,” said Marian L. Neuhouser, an associate member in cancer prevention at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in a 2009 New York Times article. “But there has been a leap into thinking that vitamins and minerals can prevent anything from fatigue to cancer to Alzheimer’s. That’s where the science didn’t pan out.”
It seems like people continue to ignore the science and treat vitamins as the ultimate preventative drug. Meanwhile, things as simple as a balanced diet and a decent night’s sleep actually do a lot more for a person’s health. They’re also much less expensive than anything GNC or Whole Foods has to offer.
That’s not to say that all vitamins are worthless. Obviously people lacking certain vitamin-rich foods in their meals, such as vegetarians, people with fruit allergies and picky eaters, should probably take a supplement to keep their diets balanced. In addition, some vitamins have been shown to provide healthful benefits to everyone, like B12.
And pregnant women should always take their pre-natal vitamins. As Terri told Quinn in the Glee episode “Preggers,” “Three times a day or your baby will be ugly.”