Vitamin Supplements: Worthless or Essential?

Some studies claim that supplements do nothing for our health

But not too long ago “experts” were urging us to take vitamin supplements, concerned that we don’t get enough nutrition from the foods we consume. What are we supposed to believe?

Citing results from studies without providing the actual context for the studies doesn’t prove anything. It’s like a science-y version of gossip.

To say “supplements do nothing for our health” stands out as an absurd overstatement in the absence of context. If you have anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency, you need to take a supplement. The same would be true for any condition that is a consequence of a nutrient inadequacy.

Take As Prescribed

I will repeat what I usually say when asked about the value of supplements: you should only take them when prescribed.

The notion that healthy people benefit from taking multivitamins as a stop-gap measure (“insurance” for not always eating well) originated with pharmaceutical companies – see Quora post below. There is no evidence of harm in doing this, but since these people are already healthy, there is also no evidence of benefit.

Let’s Use Some Common Sense

Human nutrition is complicated and you can’t get a complete version of it from pills. This means the best source of nutrients is your diet. That said, if you are not interested or willing to eat well 80% of the time, a multivitamin with minerals could be an appropriate stop-gap for you. Discuss your needs with your primary health practitioner.