Dietary Supplements are Useless
Antioxidants are some of the biggest sellers. We’re told that they’re the superheroes who come into our bodies and fight off damage from the evil free radicals that will destroy our cell membranes, or even our DNA. Chemicals such as beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and polyphenols have been shown to produce benefits when eaten in the fruits and vegetables that naturally produce them. But how do they fare in supplement form?
According to New Scientist, beta carotene actually increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers; vitamin E gives no protection against heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, or cancers; vitamin C gives no results whatsoever, unless the person is deficient already; and the little research on polyphenols indicates that they do nothing. But we know that these things are healthy when we ingest them in fruits or vegetables, so why aren’t they in supplement form?
… because the polyphenols, caratenoids, and vitamins in fruit and vegetables are bound into tough, fibrous material, they hang around in the stomach and colon, where they can neutralize free radicals… Supplements may not replicate this effect because they are being digested too quickly.
Then again, some drinks, such as coffee and tea, have been shown to be beneficial to health, despite containing free radicals such as hydrogen peroxide. Again, it seems as though our knowledge about antioxidants is out of kilter, if free radicals are bad, why do coffee and tea have health benefits?
It’s possible that, in small quantities, they activate our own defenses. Cells make enzymes such as catalase and superoxide dismutase, which actually fight off the damage. Imagine that, our bodies have their own evolved mechanism for dealing with cell damage.
Another darling of the herbal remedy community is Echinacea, the miracle plant that alleviates cold suffering and boosts the immune system. Too bad nearly every study ever done has shown that it has no effects whatsoever. It can even cause liver damage if taken for too long. The story is the same for almost every herbal supplement.
The conclusion is clear, supplements do nothing. I’d say that this means the death of an industry, but seeing as the supplement industry and their customers have never been concerned with facts, I doubt anything will change. Americans are too gullible and want the easy way out too much to stop buying into this garbage now.
Which is too bad, because the key to health is simple, and we all know it: eat well, exercise, and live well. I guess pills and empty promises are just more attractive to our society. Which I think is a wonderful sign for our future, don’t you?