Vitamins and Life

Vitamins and Life:
Once again, good food trumps pills

Vitamins have succeeded in tapping into our fear of illness and death.

Just as Ponce de Leon was drawn into the swamps of Florida in pursuit 
of an illusory Fountain of Youth, over half of all Americans buy and eat 
vitamins packaged as pills, gels, and gummy bears, driven by even the 
faintest possibility that we can avert aging, disease, and death.

This is an ancient and deeply held hope of humanity, and we do not 
minimize its power.  The only question we raise is do vitamins work?

At some point or another Ponce de Leon had to decide whether there 
was a Fountain of Youth to discover.  And so we too, will at some point
see if our pursuit of vitamins actually leads to a boost of health, a longer life,
and/or slower aging.

This turns out to be an easy question to answer.  Simply look at a huge number 
of people who take vitamins and a comparable huge number of people who do not.
And then ask, does one group age more slowly, avoid any diseases, or live longer?

Before presenting the answer let's consider an intervention that does indeed
make people age more slowly, avoid disease, and live longer.  
You might ask, is there really such a Fountain of Youth?  If there is, why doesn't 
everyone flock to it?

Well, it turns out that a very simple intervention grants these wonders.
It is simply eating fruits OR vegetables.  Notice that fruits and vegetables are equally helpful.  And we also know how much works, and what happens when you do this.

The magic number is 80 grams or 2 and 2/3 ounces, five times a day.
If you eat at least 2 and 2/3 ounces of fresh fruit OR vegetable five times a day, 
something rather extraordinary happens:
  • You have a 20% drop in the chance of developing cancer
  • You have a 15% drop in the chance of having heart disease or stroke
  • You drop you chance of dying in any year by 50%
This last point was proven in a study of the rate of dying in a group of 11,000 people
over a 17 year period.  Those who ate 2 2/3 ounces of fresh fruits OR vegetables five times a day had a mortality rate (chance of dying) half that of the rest of the group.

A related, and perhaps, as astounding fact, is that after many years of trying to find
out why this happens, we still have no idea.

In addition to wanting to be healthy, not age, and to live longer, another reason vitamin
supplements have become taken so commonly, is the thought that the reason fruits and 
vegetables grant such good health must at least be in part the fact that they are loaded 
with vitamins.

It sounds reasonable. but is it true?

The answer is clear and proven in countless study after study:  NO.

Consider Vitamin C.  It turns out that Vitamin C is a very powerful molecule with a staggering number of critical roles to play in the human body (actually in nearly every life form that uses oxygen, like us).  Vitamin C is intimately connected to the body's use of oxygen.  It helps the body use oxygen to make collagen, a protein used to make bone, muscle, nearly all tissues, and in fact makes up 25% of all our proteins.  Vitamin C is also central to the creation of critically important neurotransmitters, and the formation of growth hormone.

If some Vitamin C is so good and necessary, why wouldn't a lot be even better?

Because for nearly all biological materials, balance is what works best.  Too little is 
bad, but so is too much.

Vitamin C is such a powerful substance that the body goes to great lengths to make sure we never have too little or too much.  Once the body has enough Vitamin C in it, it closes the door to absorbing more.  Eating more will simply lead to passing it out the stool, and if you eat enough the gut will revert to diarrhea to purge the excess.

But what happens if you take large doses of Vitamin C?  Do you have fewer colds, less cancer, less heart disease, age more slowly, live longer?

These questions have been asked by having huge numbers of people eat massive quantities of Vitamin C over many years and comparing their lives to people who take no extra Vitamin C.

In every study, and there have been many, those who take extra Vitamin C experience no advantage.  They have the same risk of cancer, of heart disease, and die at the same pace and rate.

The same has been found in the case of all the B vitamins and Vitamin E, with one dangerous twist.

For groups that take extra B Vitamins or Vitamin E the rate of dying actually increased!
One study of Vitamin E supplementation had to be stopped in the middle because the group taking was noted to be dying faster, even before the study was completed.

Only two vitamins have emerged as offering any benefit if taken as a supplement:
  1. Folate.  400 mg of folate once a day taken by women from their first to last period drops the chance of having a baby with a spinal defect by over 80%.  This is the only actually proven benefit of any vitamin as a pill or supplement.
  2. Vitamin D.  The data here are not yet proven, but preliminary studies suggest that getting your Vitamin D (D3) level up to 80 (U/dl) in your blood may reduce the chance of developing a range of illnesses including diabetes, colon cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Eating five servings of fruits OR vegetables, each at least 2 2/3 ounces, every day, can have a profound on living longer, dropping the chance of cancer, heart disease, and stroke
  • Taking a supplemental vitamin is not the same thing.  It is a waste of time and money, and may actually prove to be harmful.
  • Exceptions are limited to only 2 vitamins:  Folate for women of child-bearing age, and Vitamin D
  • Therefore Advanced Pediatrics recommends that you:
    • Eat 2 2/3 ounces of fresh fruits OR vegetables daily
    • Do not take multivitamins- they may be harmful
    • If you have had your first period, take 400 mg of folate daily until your last period
    • Children of all ages should be given 400 IU of Vitamin D daily, but not as a multivitamin.
Dr. Arthur Lavin   

*Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person's particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.

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