Revisting Vitamins: Whole Food vs. Synthetic

food based vitamins vs synthetic vitamins

A recent editorial in a medical journal goes on to state that multivitamins do not provide benefits to the human body. The editorial cites certain medical studies, which evaluated a participant’s health based on vitamin consumption. These studies found very little benefit in terms of heart attacks, cancer and improvement in cognitive function. Certain questions arise with regards to those studies which are showing multivitamins don’t have any benefits.

One big question is what type of vitamin those in the study consumed? Were the vitamins food based or were they synthetically derived from toxic sources? As discussed in my previous posting on vitamins, food based vitamins derive their vitamins direct from the natural food source. Surely the studies can’t be arguing that eating vitamins based on food have no benefits to our bodies since they state regular food provides sufficient nutrients? That would be inconsistent.

The article points out that 50% of the participants in one study stopped taking medications which makes it difficult to draw a conclusion. A University of California Professor of Nutrition pointed out other problems with the studies in the article. The Professor pointed out that in one study all of the participants were doctors who have a better understanding of health and therefore studying how their health improves with the taking of vitamins may not provide meaningful results. The Professor pointedly mentions that most Americans may not have a healthy diet and as a result of an unhealthy diet, supplementing with food-based vitamins can benefit those individuals.

An additional consideration for use of multivitamin supplements is that there is evidence that due to mass farming techniques often time fresh fruits and vegetables are lacking in sufficient mineral content and nutrients. If the food we eat cannot supply the minimum nutrients and vitamins then we must eat more of the same foods in order to meet out bodily needs. That makes one more reason for those who try and eat healthy to take multivitamins.

It is well known and understood that many foods can help prevent cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research publishes as list of cancer fighting foods on their web site. Would it not stand to reason that if certain foods can help prevent cancer then extracts of the vitamins and nutrients from those foods are also beneficial? While certainly it is ideal to eat the whole food item as opposed to an extract our appetite, our time and money may not always permit us to do that.

Often times medical studies on health and vitamins while claiming to be unbiased, have their own biases. The bias can come from the study sponsor influence, the researchers own education or other sources. Regardless of those biases we as critical thinkers should keep an open view and try to learn as much as possible from all sources for the betterment of our own health.

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