Many of us go out of our way to buy and prepare foods that are good for us. For example, my wife and I only eat certain foods if they are organically grown. Arguably, avoiding foods that contain measurable amounts of pesticides is a good thing, and one that many of us are willing to pay extra for. But is there a predictable health benefit in doing so? Your intuition might say “yes,” but sometimes the data says otherwise. We should be concerned about whether or not the food choices we make are based on science or heresay.
Supplements are another area where we should all be concerned. “About what?” you might be thinking.
- We should be concerned if we need supplements that we’re not taking.
- We should be concerned as to whether or not the supplements we are taking, are beneficial to us or harming us.
- We should be concerned as to why we’re taking certain supplements and whether or not there is scientific data to support any perceived benefits.
Stop Quoting “They”
Ask someone why he or she takes a certain supplement, and the first words of the answer are likely to be, “They say…”
“They say it helps to avoid Alzheimer’s.”
“They say it’s good for digestion.”
“They say it’s a powerful antioxidant.” And you benefit how, exactly?
First, let me confess that I am pro-supplements. I take the supplements I do because of scientific data that supports doing so or because I have seen a positive effect on certain health conditions and my laboratory results. I don’t take anything because of “they say,” and neither should you.
If you take supplements, chances are you have visited a health foods store or vitamin shop. The people who work in these businesses seem very knowledgeable. For any malady you describe, they will often suggest a litany of possible supplements that could help you. What we should all be asking is, “What is the basis for your recommendation?”
Over the years, I’ve insulted vitamin fans by asking questions that they couldn’t answer. The most insulting question seems to be, “Who are ‘they’?” If someone says, “They say that taking large doses of vitamin C reduces your chances of catching a cold,” I want to know who “they” are. Whenever I ask that question, the response begins with a deer-in-the-headlights look which is then followed by an I-don’t-know look, and finally by a why=are-you-asking-me look.
Frequently, the answer to my “who are they” question begins with a walk over to a reference source, such as a book or a computer. Thus, “they” is the author of the book or whoever crafted the online reference chart.
By the way, several studies have failed to demonstrate that vitamin C reduces one’s chances of catching a cold. One study showed a small reduction in the duration of colds when taking vitamin C (Ref: Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold, 2004. Douglas RM1, Chalker EB, Treacy B.)
Don’t believe what “they” said and don’t believe healthcare advice just because it’s in a book or online somewhere. If fact, don’t take my advice without researching it for yourself first. And if you’re taking medications, or under a doctor’s care, check with your doctor before taking any supplements or starting an exercise program.
Just because someone put it in print down doesn’t make it so!
Any book that offers healthcare recommendations should cite supporting resources. Sometimes these are found in supplement guides and sometimes not. Even when sources are cited, they’re not always credible from a scientific perspective, in that the source cited is another unscientific article or book.
We’re talking about our bodies and our health here.
One of my goals for I’m Giving Notice is to offer relevant and real health information. This means I will only post or discuss information that has a scientific basis.
Before we believe that something is beneficial for our health, we should check the scientific evidence behind it. Otherwise we’re just being hopeful, and hope is not a plan for good health.