by Stewart B. Segal, MD
Over the last 27 years, this is one of the most frequent questions I have heard. The disturbing part is that my patients are never happy with my answer. While my patients are often resistant to taking FDA approved medications, they are happy to take manufactured pills laden with vitamins, “all natural” herbals and assorted other neutraceutical products (see article entitled “Skeptical” 10/28/10).
It’s not that I don’t want my patients taking vitamins. Vitamins are essential. I just don’t want my patients’ vitamins to be purchased in bottles and manufactured by man. I want my patients taking vitamins in their original, all natural packages. Nature packages vitamins in beautiful, luscious fruits and vegetables. They are packaged along with an assortment of co-factors, micronutrients and in portions designed to keep us healthy and coming back for more. While man tells you to take mega doses of his pills, nature warns you not to overindulge by giving you acid indigestion or diarrhea. While man promises that his pills contain the best, knowing that you have no way of knowing what is truly in the pill, nature invites you to take a taste. If the apple is succulent, crisp and sweet, you’ll eat it. If the quality is not there, your tongue will tell you and you’ll spit it out.
I have always believed that vitamins in a pill are not the same as vitamins in a bottle. On January 18th, Medpage Today published “Fruits, Veggies Cut Risk of IHD in Large Study”. In a large European trial (300,000 participants), eating eight or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day was associated with a 22% reduction in the risk of fatal ischemic heart disease (IHD). “In addition, increasing daily fruit and vegetable intake by just 1 portion led to a 4% decrease in risk of death from IHD.” A 22% reduction in the risk of death from ischemic heart disease is significant! It should be noted that this dramatic reduction was seen in women. Men experienced only a 2% reduction in death from IHD.
More important to today’s posting is the following comment from Michael Marmot, PhD, of University College, London: “Trials of antioxidant vitamins have not led to reductions in either cancer or cardiovascular disease. That may be because antioxidant vitamins were not the crucial components; or it is the foods, and indeed, dietary patterns that are important, not specific micronutrients.”
Further, Dr. Crowe, the author of this paper, is quoted as saying, “It is, however, worth noting that consuming antioxidant supplements is not the same as increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables because there are many other components in fruits and vegetables that confer a cardioprotective effect.”
For those of you who are seeking a more natural means for being healthy, eat whole foods, as fresh and unprocessed as possible. Eat fruits and vegetables in their original packaging. Don’t forget to eat roots, as well. Roots are an important source of minerals.
If your doctor has placed you on a specific vitamin regimen due to a vitamin deficiency, eat fruits and vegetables and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Live wellthy, eat well, exercise, invest in your emotional and spiritual health and be happy!