Vitamin Supplements
Do We Need Them?

Vitamin supplements have serious detractors as well as strong advocates.   The result is a lot of confusion among those who take them.  The questions often asked go something like:

  • We get vitamins from food so do we really need supplements?
  • Are natural vitamins better than synthetic?
  • Don't supplemented vitamins just go down the toilet?
  • Can supplementation cause an overdose?
  • Should we choose multivitamins or individual vitamins?
  • What do vitamins do for us anyway?
  • OK, so what?   Everyone knows they are good for us.  Don't they?  Most everyone takes a multi-vitamin but how many know why they are taking it, much less what it is doing for them? 

    Probably TV ads for Centrum Silver, One-a-Day and hundreds of others plus mommy's "admonition to take your vitamins" are probably why so many are consumed.  It's also probably why so many end up going down the toilet, never having dissolved in the gut or absorbed in that twisty tube of the GI tract.

    Pros and Cons

    Going back to our original list of questions.  Most naturopaths will say that the nutritional content of commercially grown food is so depleted that we must use supplements.  Many traditional M.D.s will say that is nonsense; just eat the right foods and we will get all the vitamins we need.

    Numerous studies confirm that we must eat more of a given fruit or vegetable today in order to get the same nutrients that fewer servings would have provided a few decades ago.  

    Commercial farmland is severely depleted of trace minerals and phyto-nutrients which translates to a lower vitamin content as well. 

    All you have to do is perform the taste test.   Eat a supermarket tomato with the "produce of Chile" sticker (or Mexico or anywhere else over 3000 miles away) and a tomato you grew in your home garden.  Think you will detect a difference?

    Real Food vs Vitamin Supplements

    Regarding synthetic vitamins versus natural vitamins, in general it greatly depends on the manufacturer. 

    A vitamin supplement company that follows Good Manufacturing Practices, that uses hydroponic growing methods to tightly control and standardize the vitamin content in the product and tests every batch and practices exceptional quality control will have a superior product than a company that produces synthetic vitamins from hydrocarbon compounds. 

    Natural vitamins, that is, ones that are plant sourced, are better absorbed than the synthetics.

    The type, quality, source and growing conditions of food matters greatly.   If you don't believe it just take a look at the DVD Food Matters featured in the banner link to the right.

    Ideally, organic produce is more nutritious than commercially grown produce from the corporate farm.  The bottom line is that if we eat healthy, fresh, raw, true vine ripened fruit and vegetables daily, we probably can get by just fine without vitamin supplements. 

    For most of us who can't do that, supplementation is mandatory.

    There are numerous sites on the web offering a huge amount of data and information about supplements, vitamins or otherwise.  Two that we found that seem reliable are:

    WebMD's Vitamins and Supplements Lifestyle Guide and the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements that provides their Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Fact Sheets. Both good reference material.

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