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Show 1124: Should You Be Taking Vitamin Supplements?

How healthy is your diet? On June 2, 2018, listen to the experts explain why some people should take vitamin supplements while others may not need them. Call in your questions.
Tieraona Low Dog, MD
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Should You Be Taking Vitamin Supplements?

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What is the value of vitamin supplements? There is no consensus on whether most people would benefit. Much of the research on multivitamins does not show a strong effect in preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer. Consequently, doctors often conclude that vitamin supplements are unnecessary.

What Is a Well-Balanced Diet?

Instead, they suggest that everyone follow a well-balanced diet. That is certainly good advice, but it doesn’t seem to be practical for all Americans. For one thing, not all experts agree on exactly what constitutes the healthiest eating patterns. How do you define a well-balanced diet? Do you think you meet the criteria most of the time?

The Experts Evaluate Vitamin Supplements:

We talk with two outstanding physicians in this arena, with very different perspectives on whether vitamin supplements can be helpful. Dr. JoAnn Manson is heading two large studies on supplements, but she believes that most people don’t need them. Dr. Tieraona Low Dog is one of the country’s leading experts on supplements; on the contrary, she says, too many Americans don’t eat properly and could benefit from multivitamins as nutrition insurance. Both agree that people taking certain medications such as acid-suppressing drugs really benefit from targeted supplementation such as vitamin B12 and magnesium.

Call Us:

Listen to our experts explain their approaches and think about whether or not you would benefit from a multivitamin or other supplement. Ask Joe and Terry about whether your medications create special nutritional needs and tell us about your experience with supplements. 888-472-3366 on Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 7 to 8 am EDT or email radio@peoplespharmacy.com

This Week’s Guests:

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is the founder of Medicine Lodge Ranch: A Natural Medicine Academy. She is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements, herbal medicine and women’s health. Dr. Low Dog is a founding member of the American Board of Physician Specialties, American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health. She was elected Chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Committee and was appointed to the Scientific Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her books include Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well Without Prescriptions and Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More.  The photo is of Dr. Low Dog. Her website is drlowdog.com

JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, is chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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comments (25 total)
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I’m 81, was raised in a family who went to naturopaths and chiropractors, didn’t see a medical doc til I was pregnant with my first child, age 18. Very healthy, take vitamins every day and always have, low b.p. Refused warfarin when I was hospitalized with broken leg as my vitamin A takes care of that. A chiropractor friend many years ago said he’d first thought vitamins were unnecessary but changed his mind over the years.

Keep on with your good work educating us about every type of medical issue!

I don’t think vitamins can hurt you – I take them because I know I don’t eat well and I figure that vitamins provide me with what my body isn’t gettng in the way of food.

They actually can hurt you. I read extensively about diet and vitamins. It seems that there are a wide array of phytonutrients associated with the vitamins we know by a single letter, i.e. Vitamin E. When you take a supplement, the artificial vitamin binds to all the receptors in your cells for the vitamin. Then your cells won’t absorb all the nutrients they need from good fresh fruits and vegetables. How foolish we are to think we can create something better than, or even equal to, what nature has already provided for our bodies.

I want to see educational info on synthetic B9 (folic acid) in drug store B vitamins and multivitamins. When taken by those with a mthfr gene mutation, it can result in folic toxicity because the body isnt metabolizing (breaking down) folic into a usable form (folate). The metabolism required is a long process involving many proteins, amino acids and enzymes.

It can be halted near the beginning of the chain. Folate B9, as well as many other processes in the metabolic chain, are critical to the nervous system. So many foods have folic acid because of the FDA requirement of being added to flour. That means bread, cereal, pasta, pizza, baked goods, gravy — anything with regular (enriched) flour.

Very confusing genetic mutation that is very common! And very hard for people with the problem to figure out what to eat. Also hard to decide what to do about vitamin supplements and finding a doctor aware of the problem or who believes it’s real and can provide guidance.

This is the kind of dull comment made by dimwitted people who read too much and understand too little. Just stop trying to appear smart or informed.

I keep shaking my head at all this properganda put out by….who? I can make a good guess.

Let’s see….vitamin supplements are dangerous and cause harm. Harvard school of Public health has assessed that when properly proscribed and taken as directed, the lowest established death toll from PHARMACEUTICAL drugs is around 85,000 people a year.

High estimate is 106,000 people a year.
According to AAFCO there have been 13 alleged deaths from vitamins in 31 YEARS.

Above taken from Marcola site. Have not heard anything g about this from the good doctor who claims supplements are bad for you.

After reading the book “Are your prescriptions killing you”by Neel, jr PharmD CGP, I have come to the conclusion that most doctors are unaware of the harm they are causing. Thank you for your site and radio program. May you always be there.

There is a lack of ability to utilize some forms of B vitamins in 10-20% of the population. This condition is caused by defective MTHFR genes. I cannot utilize folic acid and Cyancobalamin (B-12) because both are synthetic forms of the vitamins. I CAN utilize the natural forms of both, folate and methycobalamin. The worse I felt, the more I took of the wrong forms. I found this out late in life and now avoid these synthetic forms in my vitamins. Folic acid and cyancobalamin are found in “enriched” grains and found even in commercial coconut milk. There can be a link to various health conditions because of this defect. If you have a chronic condition you might want to be tested for this defective gene with a blood test. Before vitamins and processed foods, this was not an issue for humans as far as I can tell.

I am not religious about taking supplements, but I do not trust the foods I eat to give me what I need. So, I do take them from time to time. As we age, we are unable to absorb vits and mins in any form as well as we did when younger. Also, the quality of vits and mins makes a big difference. Some forms are not readily soluble by the body and are wasted. Most doctors get no useful training with supplements. Vits and mins can’t hurt and certainly are more helpful and much safer than drugs, which can’t make you healthy.

I agree with all of the above: supplement with the highest quality possible, and use only what’s right for you. A naturopathic or a functional doctor can be helpful in this process.

Hi, I just want to change your reasoning a bit. Stastics is based on a flip of the coin ie 50% heads and 50 % tails. The human body is based on certainty ie probability of 0.996 to 1. Let them take those big studies and scale them back to the lowest number where the data remains the same. You will find it takes a lot lower n to give you confident results. The Ca/Mg patient of one may have some significance to it. If you contract your arm, the bicept is contracted, Ca, and the tricept is relaxed, Mg. Everything alive with muscles has it. It’s design! Ca/Mg does supplement what is necessary to deter cramps in all only if the cramps are caused by a deficiency. And tell that unknowing MD/host that n=1 may be valid and should not be dismissed.

I can’t imagine relying on the traditional SAD to stay healthy. Statistics are proving people are not [necessarily] eating “healthfully,” so to suggest not taking supplements is ill advised. Since the ’80’s I’ve studied integrative health, been a longtime follower of People’s Pharmacy/Drs. Weil and Tieraona Low Dog. Throughout this time I’ve taken vitamins based on my needs. As a vegan (today), I couldn’t imagine not supplementing my diet — generally speaking I eat *very* healthfully. Thanks for all the great information you provide. I believe people who want to take control of their health [best they can] will do so, and should carefully consider their health condition, any meds they take, etc *before* embarking on incorporating supplements. [Also carefully consider the sources of that ‘information’ you find on the internet on vitamins and supplements!]. Our health and quality of life is that important.

Doctors miss the point that vitamins are chemicals that the body requires. Whether you get this from food or a supplement the given chemical is a chemical. Why all the unbelief by the medical community? Now they say it is the “micro nutrients” that make the difference in food but never say what they are or how they make a particular vitamin in food better than a vitamin taken as a supplement.

As we grow older all body functions becomes less efficient so supplements makes up for these deficiencies. You just can’t eat the amount of food to get the amount of vitamins your body requires. I have gone ON/OFF vitamins many times and there was a noticeable effect. So there is no doubt in my mind that vitamins are required as we get older.

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