Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vitamin Supplements

Rod wrote to me and said: "Just returned from a stint in Samoa and have hopefully encouraged a group of people to sign up to your newsletter. I seem to be constantly faced with questions about taking vitamins. My response is usually that if you have a balanced diet, there is no need to take additional vitamins. Many are now responding with the statement that our food is so over fertilised and sprayed with pesticides that the vitamin levels are deficient and therefore we should take extra supplements. Can you clarify?"

Thanks for your note Rod.

If you want people to take more of your supplement, especially vitamin supplements, then you must constantly seed the idea that today's food supply is deficient in whatever nutrient supplement you are trying to convince people to purchase. This style of marketing has been very common over the last three decades. You must tell people that fruits and vegetables now have less vitamins than they did 100 years ago, despite the fact that we didn't even isolate the very first vitamin until 1912, or you tell them that fruits and vegetables are devoid of vitamins without appreciating that the vitamins are there for normal plant function and growth and not specifically for humans.

In this country, as far as we can determine, fruits and vegetables have just as much vitamins and minerals as they did decades ago. The greatest influence on the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables is actually the purchaser. It will depend upon how the produce is stored, how soon after purchasing the produce is consumed, and how the produce is prepared and cooked. But of course, people don't want to hear that. They much prefer to hear the conspiracy theory of food supply.

There are certain subgroups of people who do require additional nutrient supplementation, such as extra folate during pregnancy, additional iron in anaemic patients, vitamin D in those with vitamin D insufficiency. Most healthy people who eat well and are fit are those least likely to benefit from a multivitamin supplement.

In fact, I think, this is a sensible argument, but I do not have the funds to constantly pitch myself against high-profile cricketers flogging supplements to those who can afford them yet will get the least benefit. People find celebrities and athletes more credible than scientists. I live with that every day. Please hand me that box of tissues.

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