There’s been a media flurry lately about two new studies revealing dangers associated with long-term use of food supplements. As reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, The Iowa Women’s Health Study found that older women (age 62 plus), who had routinely taken a variety of vitamin/mineral supplements over 20 years or more, had an increased mortality risk, compared to nonusers. An international team, funded by National Cancer Institute (NCI) concluded that men using Vitamin E and selenium supplements had a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Without getting into the minutiae of these studies, FACT’s position has always been that supplements should be used very selectively and only of the highest quality. Today, too many people are popping pills promiscuously, that is, without evidence of a particular deficiency or attention to quality, misguidedly thinking, perhaps, that this “kitchen sink” approach might have some disease preventing effect down the line. The opposite may be true.
Too many supplements are what we call “junk vitamins” – full of colorings, preservatives, binders, synthetic nutrients – the processing of which puts undue stress on the body, upsetting homeostasis over time. Some nutrients, like Vitamin A, E or selenium, are cumulative and can be toxic with reeated high dosing. Megadoses of any nutrient can be extremely unbalancing, imposing a strain on the eliminative system which is so crucial to maintaining health.
If you have a particular deficiency, we would recommend that you take a very high quality product from food sources, not synthesized material, and for only as long as the problem persists – i.e., ideally, to bridge the gap until the body can self correct by addressing deficiencies in the diet. The usual rational for taking supplements is that our food supply today is not as rich in nutrients as it should be. However, much smaller amounts of nutrients are required in food than in factory-assembled supplements because metabolism is so much more efficient with food. Scientific tests have shown that a relatively small proportion of nutrients are absorbed from pills, yet the body has to divert valuable energy trying to eliminate all the other component parts.
In FACT’s experience, the best long-term prevention policy is a balanced diet, including a wide variety of fresh, whole, unprocessed foods. This is the material Nature has provided for the human animal. Real food is what the body most comfortably and competently knows how to process – that’s the way we’ve been designed to function best! Caveat emptor!