The vitamin industry is one of the largest and probably most profitable industries with some of the greatest "scientific" claims being made. But what vitamins actually are beneficial and which ones are mostly hype? Which vitamins are best for preventing coronavirus, aging, hair loss and are vitamins made from whole foods better than those that aren't whole food derived?
DO I REALLY NEED VITAMINS?
No, we shouldn't need vitamins, should we? If you were to take a snapshot of what you ate today and at the vast amount of fortified products consumed, we should be the healthiest people on earth! If you ate one bowl of cereal, took a daily multivitamin, ate a piece of bread during the day and consumed your normal daily caloric intake the argument is you would consume all of the vitamins you needed.
There are many peer reviewed, scholarly articles and trials that have been done arguing for and against the need for additional vitamin supplementation. The real scoop? The average person probably does not need additional vitamin supplementation but there may be those that are deficient or need additional supplementation either short or long term.
WHAT ARE THE BEST VITAMINS TO TAKE?
Lately the trend has been to consume vitamins made from real foods. The thought is that if we are eating all of these fortified products and they aren't helping us, it should be better if we get it straight from the source. We are organic creatures and living organisms so laboratory vitamins that are synthetic probably get rejected from our bodies. Hence the reason so many of us consume fortified foods but don't feel healthy. Our body rejects them since they are synthetic. It makes sense. I have a good friend who was shown to be iron deficient. She took iron tablets that her doctor prescribed but struggled or couldn't keep her iron levels up. She went back to her doctor who then suggested she eat a steak or red meat once a week. The iron in the steak (red meat) improved her iron deficiency. So does this prove that whole foods and whole food vitamins are best for us to take since we are living organisms?
Most studies and scientific findings are showing that whole food derived vitamins are best. However, if you are looking at taking a supplement, there is sufficient evidence that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is NOT effective (it's lab derived but commonly used as Vitamin C in vitamins) and should be avoided as a source of Vitamin C.
WHAT VITAMINS ARE BEST FOR AVOIDING CORONAVIRUS?
With all the talk of coronavirus, there have been numerous studies out toting the need for vitamins in prevention of coronavirus. While a lot of the information on coronavirus and COVID-19 is very preliminary and often difficult to distinguish between proven fact and hype, Vitamin D studies being done are showing some benefit to Vitamin D therapy and coronavirus. However, the findings also indicated that the most vulnerable population to coronavirus usually shows a Vitamin D deficiency, but other comorbidities as well. The conclusion to the study stated that it "should be advisable to perform dedicated studies about vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients with different degrees of disease severity." (Ilie, 2020) At the time of the writing of this article, there hasn't been enough time passed to perform the dedicated studies needed to prove that Vitamin D therapy is beneficial. However, there is typically no harm done by giving a patient Vitamin D so many physicians have been using this alongside other treatments in the treatment of coronavirus. And we of course now see it all over the news and vitamin companies are jumping on board telling you to increase your Vitamin D intake.
WHAT VITAMINS ARE BEST FOR HAIR LOSS? AGING? WEIGHT LOSS?
I could go on all day answering questions on what the best vitamins are for everything from hair loss to arthritis or cataracts. When I'm asked questions like this I hesitate to answer but instead start looking at the SCIENTIFIC facts behind these statements. Anyone can make a claim, but the things you will want to look for in order to show that it is a PROVEN and VERIFIABLE method for the answer you are looking for is actually very simple.
- Make sure that there have been peer reviewed, scholarly articles and studies done to prove the efficacy of the claim being made. Simply that means that when a website is making the claim that "folic acid decreases hair loss" you go to a site like Google Scholar and type in the claim. Then READ through some of the articles that might come up as results. How many studies have been done to try to prove or dispute this claim? What types of studies were done? What were the conclusions and the outcomes of the study? Has the study been replicated to verify the outcome is correct before making the claim that something is beneficial? Were there any negative outcomes of the study like "folic acid was found to decrease hair loss over a short period of time, however long term use of folic acid for hair loss has not proven to be an effective form of treatment for hair loss." Really read through the studies you are finding. Look at what types of studies they are doing. Are they using words like "preliminary findings" in their conclusion of the study? If words like that are being used it may mean that the sample they may have used was very small and has not been replicated on a larger scale to prove the hypothesis.
- Do your homework, don't let the company do it for you. I cannot tell you how many times companies have come to me to try their products. When my ex and I were still married, almost DAILY I received offers from companies to try their products to cure diabetes or reduce anxiety. They knew EXACTLY what to say to me. And they thought they could outsmart me with fancy buzz words like "whole food," "third party testing," and "proven effective." I usually thanked them and looked into the ingredients they were using, making sure to really take a hard look at the ingredients, claims, and prices. Some vitamins were so cheaply made and were up to 1600% higher priced than more expensively produced vitamins that put a lot of energy, effort and time into making sure ingredients in them were derived from sources that were beneficial to a person consuming them. However I found there were VERY FEW companies that didn't take some sort of shortcut in their product, even if it was an ingredient or two they chose a cheaper option for.
- Beware of claims like "third party testing." These can be buzz words to prove that the product is what it claims to be. But many of these are just fluff. Often they only test a single sample of the product and then give it an okay. Sometimes companies pay for this independent testing to try to give more credibility to the product. I've even seen where some companies form a third party testing entity or business that essentially is just testing their own products and giving a stamp of approval. There are VERY few companies that are true unbiased third party testing sites. To be credible, you will want to make sure that the testing company tests for unlisted ingredients, that the strength of the product or dosage is true to the claims and that the testing company is conducting continued periodic audits and compliance checks on the product.
Sound off! What have you found to be some of the most effective methods for finding a truly good vitamin? Do you believe that vitamins work?
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat or prescribe. Please seek advice from your physician and do your own homework on products prior to purchasing. This article is for informational purposes only. No profits are being made on any links listed here.