We continue to hear from many health professionals that vitamins and minerals are a total waste of money. This popular refrain has been repeated for decades: “If you take vitamins and minerals all you will get will be expensive urine.”
Here is a classic example posted by “Orac” on ScienceBlogs on December 19, 2013:
“I remember during medical school that more than one of my faculty used to have a regularly repeated crack that the only thing that taking vitamin supplements could do for you was to produce expensive pee. My first year in medical school was nearly thirty years ago now; so it’s been a long time. During the nearly three decades since I first entered medical school, I have yet to see any evidence to persuade me otherwise. If you eat a well-rounded diet, you don’t need vitamin supplementation.”
Should you wish to read Orac’s complete article: “Supplements: Flushing your money down the toilet in expensive urine,” here is a link.
We Respectfully Disagree:
The entire basis for the expensive urine argument is based on the premise that people are eating a “well-balanced diet.” What does that even mean?
Now please do not get me wrong. I absolutely think food is the best source of nutrients. When people avoid processed foods and shop locally at their farmers’ markets they are doing everyone a favor. Preparing real food at every meal and steering clear of packages with impossible-to-pronounce ingredients is totally sensible. It’s also unrealistic for many people.
Moms who have to get their kids out the door for school often rely on sugary breakfast cereal or something that was frozen. People in a hurry grab-and-go at fast food joints or take-out restaurants. Actually taking time to cook a real meal has become a luxury a lot of families don’t feel they can afford.
Deficiencies: More Common Than Realized
Tieraona Low Dog, MD, has been studying nutrition for decades. In her wonderful book, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More, she provides insight into the vitamin and mineral controversy. She points out that 16 million Americans are deficient in vitamin C. Dr. Low Dog reports that the CDC estimates that “at least 66 million Americans have low levels of vitamin D.”
Doctors like Orac rarely consider how many people are now vegans. These individuals may be deficient in riboflavin (vitamin B2) because they do not consume dairy or meat. And by the way, they are also likely to be low in vitamin B12. Many people who are not vegetarians avoid dairy because they are lactose deficient. Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity must steer clear of wheat, barley and rye. Such grains supply important nutrients.
And speaking of vitamin B12, people who take the diabetes drug metformin or the acid-suppressing medications called PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) may also be low in vitamin B12. PPIs like Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec may deplete the body of magnesium and other minerals. People with high blood pressure are almost inevitably put on diuretics. Millions are also taking ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors like lisinopril. Such drugs can deplete the body of zinc. Many doctors monitor potassium, but magnesium and zinc are often forgotten. When levels of magnesium fall, every cell in the body can be affected negatively.
Dr. Low Dog has a fabulous section at the end of her book listing medications that can cause drug-nutrient depletions and interactions. People who regularly take medications should consult this section and show it to their physicians.
When Doctors are Dogmatic Patients Shut Up:
Cindy says it eloquently:
“I have totally given up on EVER even MENTIONING natural supplements, food remedies, vitamins, etc., to any regular doctor. This is because every time I ever did, I was met with a blank stare and/or complete dismissal of the idea that ‘natural remedies’ were anything but a bunch of hooey.
“I have reached the age of 68 in very fine form and most people think I’m about 45…more than 20 years younger than I actually am!
“That said, it IS incumbent on people to do their own research! And you have to get lots of opinions from lots of sources, so you can ‘average them out’ to find the best representation of ‘truth.’
“By the way, ISN’T IT STRANGE that so many people seem uncomfortable with ‘natural remedies,’ saying, ‘yes, but they could be dangerous’…when prescription medications are the ones with the most dangerous and debilitating side effects! Sheesh.”
We cannot think of three better books to consult on such matters than those written by Tieraona Low Dog, MD.
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Low Dog and these amazing publications, visit her website:
You can also listen to Dr. Low Dog on The People’s Pharmacy radio show. She was our guest on the topic of boosting the immune system and medical controversies about statins, hypothyroidism and vitamins and minerals. You can listen to Show 1057: How Can You Improve Your Immune Response for free at this link.
Let us know what you think. Are vitamins and minerals a waste of money. We really would like to get your opinion in the comment section below.