Can Taking Vitamins Undermine Healthy Eeating Habits? Not if You’re Careful.
We tend to look to multivitamins and other supplements as ways to balance a poor diet.People believe that this insurance-policy approach to nutrition can make up for missing out on servings of produce or indulging in fast food for lunch.And while this kind of “umbrella coverage” can help fill in nutrients that you might be missing from your diet,depeding on it could leave your health exposed-even undermined.
A False Sense of Security
“People who rely on dietary supplement use for health protection may pay a hidden price: the curse of licensed self-indulgence,” says Wen Bin Chiou,M.D., a nutrition researcher and professor at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-Sen University,author of a study on just this phenomenon.
Dr.Chiou and colleagues gave volunteers a multivitamin or a placebo and -in a twist-let them know which was which,when in fact all the pills were placebos.They then had the volunteers fill out questionnaires on the desirability of various behavoirs,ranging from healthy (running,yoga,swimming,bicycling) to hedonistic(sunbathing,excessive drinkig,casual sex).People who believed they had taken a multivitamin rated the hedonistic a activities as much more desirable than the placebo group,who were more likely to rank healthy behaviors as desirable. After the questionnaires were filled out,the researchers offered the volunteers lunch coupons that would pay for a buffet or an organic meal.The multivitamin group shunned the organic meal in favor of the buffet,even though they precieved the organic meal as healthier.The placebo group was more likely to choose the organic lunch.Dr.Chiou believe it’s clear that the healthy behavoir of swallowing a vitamin led that group to give themselves license when it came to less-healthy behavoir.Conversely,the people who know that they got a placebo were more likely to make healthier decisions.
In second test.Dr,Chiou pulled off the same subterfuge of giving a fake multivitamin or a placebo to volunteers.He than asked the participants to test a pedometer for research purposes,instruction them to walk to either of two different landmarks.Both groups were give so hour to complete the task and were encouraged to run errands or visit a friend along the way.More than two-thirds of the multivitamin takers chose the closer landmark,compared to just 40 percent of the placebo group.What’s more,the placebo group also covered more distance,on average,than those who had taken the faux multivitamin.The results suggest that people may subconsciously believe that pills give them an excuse to bend or even break the rules of healthy living,says Dr.Chiou.
The Truth About Multivitamins
The only problem with feeling that a multivitamin gives you carte blanche with your diet is that it’s false sense of security.Most nutrition experts point to studies in which regular vitamin takers do no better or even worse-than people who skip supplements.in Fact,research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that elderly women who regularly took multivitamins had a higher risk of heart disease and cancer that did those who didn’t take the pills,Another study from the National Cancer Institute reported that men who took vitamin E were much more likely to develop prostate cancer.While that news is a little disturbing,it probably just means that these people were already in poor health when they sought out the supplements,suggests David Katz,M.D., nutrition expert at Yale University School of Medicine.
In other word,there’s no indications that the increased risks seen in these studies were caused by the pills.
Dr.Katz says,Often people who take multivitamins do so becouse they’re already sick or at risk for a disease which could account for the differences in longevity,” However/”he says.”by isolating the vitamins and minerals in these foods,we may getting the dose wrong,or perhaps the nutrients need other ingredients -present in the foud but not the pill-to work.”
Be Careful Not to Overdo it
Consider vitamin B9.Also known as folate,the nerve development:it’s also a basic buliding block in the formating of new cells.Since 1996,the Food and Drug Administration has required that all grains be fortified with folic acid becouse it helps pregnant women get enough of this B vitamin to protect their fetus from neural-tube defects.
All well and good,but that means the folic acid in multivitamins is superflous.Even worse,it could rise the risk of breast cancer in women Swedish researchers looked at data on more than 35,000 women and found that multivitamin takers were 19 percent more likely to develop breast cancer.Of course,in study of this size it’s tough to control for all the potential nutrients in the women’s diet-and lifestyle behavoirs-that could have contributed to the increased risk.
As Dr.Katz points out.there’s no need to panic if you take supplements.And some nutrients that make a lot of sense to get from a pill-for example.Omega-3 fats for people who live in areas where the winter is long and the sun is scarce.But if you follow a healthy lifestyle,you may want to think twice before you commit to taking multivitamins.