Popping Pills is No Health Guarantee

I suppose I’ll start this blog post with a little self-disclosure. I don’t take a daily multi-vitamin. What can I say, I’m a registered dietitian and a huge proponent of getting nutrients from food. Plus, I can’t stand pills and can never seem to remember to take them. But during my relatively short career as an RD, I’m still taken aback when a client comes to see me and has a laundry list of daily supplements they take…only to be followed by an equally long list of problems which ail them.

Boy did I feel validated by a relatively recent article published in the New York Times. The first line states that “the best efforts of the scientific community to prove the health benefits of vitamins keeps falling short.” The rest of the article lists multiple supplement studies which failed to show benefits of supplement intake on the rates/treatment of various diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and bone health.

And the crazy thing is that despite these pathetic results, consumers are still willing to spend billions of dollars every year in hopes of a miracle! Yes, popping a pill is much easier than exercising and eating properly. Yes, the pills are relatively cheap. And yes, they are likely not doing you any harm.

Here’s what I have to say about supplements:
• The magical properties of nutritious food just cannot be replicated by a pill.
• For chronic disease prevention and optimal health, health behaviors such as walking 30 minutes a day and eating lots of fruits and vegetables is proven to be much more effective.
• There are some instances where a supplement may do you some good: 
    o 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day for those living in areas of little sunlight (i.e. Boston) 
    o Calcium and Vitamin D for women 
    o Prenatal vitamins for women of child bearing age 
    o Omega-3s if you don’t eat them in your diet

So the next time you are looking to boost your health, consider peeling an orange rather than popping a pill.