Category Archives: Supplements

Why I Take Vitamins


Vitamins are 100 years old!  Well, kinda.

Vitamins are as old as life itself.  But it was only 100 years ago a Polish biochemist named Casimir Funk dubbed these essential nutrients “Vitamins”.  Personally, I would’ve gone with Funkamins.  Or Funky Cold Medinas. But I’m not a Polish biochemist with a cool last name.

No one disputes the importance of eating a diet full of vitamin-rich foods, but there is still plenty of skepticism over whether taking a vitamin supplement is a good idea.

Not for me.  I’m a daily multivitamin advocate.  Here’s my logic:

Oxidative stress is proven.  There’s little debate free radicals in our bodies cause damage to cells.  And…
The modern world creates more free radicals than ever before.  Pollution, chemical exposure, and increased daily stress has caused our bodies to be assaulted by more free radicals than our natural defenses can handle.  And…
Vitamins are antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals.  In addition to numerous other benefits, vitamins play a role in protecting our cells from oxidative stress.  But….
No matter how healthy our diet, we don’t get enough vitamins.  At least not enough to keep up with the increased free radical onslaught from modern living.  So…
We need a boost to compensate.  Vitamin supplements bridge this gap.

While it hasn’t been conclusively proven vitamin protection from oxidative stress leads to better health, following the above logic leads me to conclude taking a vitamin supplement likely provides a protective benefit.

Therefore, the only reason not to take a multivitamin would be if it did harm.  Generally speaking, there is little risk in taking a reputable multivitamin.  Although that’s not always the advice mainstream medicine will advertise.  (I’ve commented on this before.)

Some of the negativity certainly comes from outlandish claims made by the few unscrupulous purveyors.  But there are plenty of reputable manufacturers to choose from.  Here’s the vitamins I use and promote.  And why.

I’d love to hear why you believe, or don’t believe, in vitamin supplements.  Naysayers welcome.

Zantrex-3’s Unfortunate New Tagline

I caught an ad touting diet pill Zantrex-3 this weekend.  I’m not a fan of diet pills, but this is a new low.  Not only do they promise something they can’t deliver, they drop the new tagline “It’s Great to Be Thin”.

Geez.  Does each bottle come with an eating disorder too?  How about a poor body image?  Hell, throw in low self esteem too.  All in one pill!

Here’s the thing: Zantrex-3 wants your money.  That, of course, is terrifically unsurprising.  Every business wants your money.  But some companies don’t care so much about what they provide in return.

With its new tagline, Zantrex-3 makes it clear they’re in the camp of wanting your money first, helping your health is a secondary objective.  If an objective at all.

Spend your money on products that aim to provide value, not a quick fix.  Zantrex-3 will not make you thin.  Only lighter in the wallet.

Bringing in a Ringer to Defend Alternative Medicine

Dr David Katz

I make no secret of my belief in the value of vitamin supplementation.  I consider it an important part of living healthy.  Not everyone agrees.

Many in the medical community believe taking vitamins or other supplements is ineffective, a waste of money, and can be harmful.  I certainly have rebuttals to this type of thinking, but today I’m going to let someone much smarter than me do the talking.

Dr David Katz (bio) is a Yale professor and an expert on nutrition, weight loss, and chronic disease prevention.  He recently wrote an excellent article on the need for continued funding for the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).

Vitamins and supplementation are considered a part of complementary or alternative medicine

While Dr Katz doesn’t completely share my views on vitamins, his thoughts on the importance of CAM mirror my own.  I highly suggest reading the entire piece, but here are three highlights from the essay. Stated more eloquently than I’m able.

Untested common practices in medicine

One of the biggest arguments against complementary medicine is the inability to produce clear, repeatable results from typical clinical testing.  Dr Katz:

Much of what is done in conventional medicine is simply time-honored but not truly tested. When time-honored practices are put to exacting tests of evidence, they often fail.

Interpreting study results

On the notion of dismissing evidence that contradicts a health professional’s view (we ALL do this):

Negative evidence should not be ignored — but practitioners of all varieties are reluctant to renounce what they have long believed to be true.

Medicine as a business

Dr Katz nails my views regarding the intertwined nature of healthcare and business.

…the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study of coenzyme Q10 for heart failure, which both the authors, and editorialists who opined, concluded showed that the nutrient was ineffective.

But since coenzyme Q10 is a nutrient no one can patent, it lacked the deep pocket of a patent-owning drug company that carvedilol enjoyed. The study in question followed 52 men for three months. The simple fact is this: If carvedilol had been studied this way, it, too, would have looked utterly ineffective.

…The distinction between large and well-funded trials, and small, under-funded trials is of crucial importance. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

If we are prepared to acknowledge the widespread bullying to which both science and sense are subject at the hands of the almighty dollar, we might commit ourselves to the systematic effort of distinguishing the two….

An Unworthy Supplement

I found this curious.  The label on the back of my Monster Energy Drink reads “Supplement Facts” where I’d expect to see “Nutrition Facts”.  An energy drink is a supplement?

Apparently Monster and it’s brethren are ‘energy supplements’.  This is fairly ridiculous.  An energy drink is a soft drink.  It’s a sugar, or sugar substitute, laden caffeine boost.  The B Vitamins it touts do absolutely nothing for short term alertness or energy.

Why this distinction is made I have no idea.  Although I’d suppose promoting a product as an ‘energy supplement’ is preferred over admitting it’s a soft drink.  Marketing trumps all.

I’ll admit I down an energy drink on occasion.  Probably 1-2 a week for a mid afternoon slump.  But in no way do I, nor should you, consider them a supplement.

That gives supplements a bad name.

What you Should Know about Dry Labbing

Debate over the effectiveness and safety of supplements continues.  On Sunday night, Dateline NBC aired a segment on the insidious practice of dry labbing in the dietary supplement industry.

Dry labbing occurs when a laboratory hired to ensure a supplement’s contents match its stated ingredients does not perform the necessary analysis and simply returns results showing the product to be satisfactory.

Why would a lab not perform an analysis and say it did?  For money, naturally.  A testing lab is hired by a supplement company to ensure the product they desire is what is actually being produced, often from a third-party manufacturer.

When a lab returns results matching the desired data the new product will go into production and the lab can expect repeat business as more product needs confirmed.  Hence, it’s in the lab’s benefit for the results to be positive.

It’s unethical to say the least.  And due to the potential for illnesses or death from mislabeled supplements, it’s down right criminal.

I’ve previously posted ways to protect yourself when taking supplements.  Start here to protect yourself from the horrible practice of dry labbing.

Three Supplement Types to Avoid

Five Precautions to Choose a Safe Supplement 

Your Doc Uses Supplements, You Should Too

Although supplement use is often vilified in the media, a new survey indicates your physician likely is convinced of their utility. It seems 60-75% of physicians take supplements themselves.  That’s about the same rate as the general population.   Doctors…just like US!

They’re typically taking multivitamins and fish oil.  And most would recommend their patients mimic their supplement use.  If it’s good enough for your physician…

Most physicians don’t receive formal training about supplements.  No worries.  Being a physician requires a lifelong commitment to learning.  Understanding the usefulness and yes, the dangers, of supplements is a skill most MDs develop through their careers and personal experience.

So talk to your doc about supplementation.  Ask if they personally take anything and why.  Ask what you should avoid.  And always be sure to clear with your doc any new supplement you wish to start.

Turns out Doctors are just like regular people.  Curious….

The Newest Miracle Diet Pill

No, it’s not Miracle Whip.  Though someday you may see it packed with reservatrol.

Reservatrol is the substance in red wine that has been linked to vino’s heart health benefits.  Now a new study aims to take this little known compound to rock star status.

How?  Well the study concluded it can help with weight loss.  This statement has likely sealed reservatrol’s fate:

“Without changing their diet or exercise habits, the mens’ metabolic function improved…..they were using and storing calories more like athletes in training than obese couch potatoes”

You had me at “without changing their diets or exercise habits”.  The allure of a no effort weight loss solution continues to be remarkable.  A simple pill to make me lose weight is the holy grail.

Expect an onslaught of “miracle diet pills” boosting your metabolic rate.  Expect “clinically proven” to be touted.  Even though most don’t really know what that means.  It sounds scientific.

Consider yourself warned.  The magic weight loss pill remains a myth, sadly.  Feel free to continue to enjoy red wine to your heart’s content.  Just don’t expect the pounds to melt away.