Vitamins: Do We Really Need Them or Is It All Snake Oil?

September 21, 2013
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vitamins and health

vitamins and health

by Ron the Trainer and Bob vitamins
Does your head spin when you think about all you’ve seen and heard about vitamins and nutritional supplements? At 50+ we need to consume smartly, so read on for some informative chatter on the topic.

Bob’s Experience:

Vitamins … what a black box of confusion vitamins are for most folks. They certainly are for me, but I must admit, I really don’t spend a great deal of time dwelling on the subject. Nonetheless, I take them, daily, religiously. Why? Well because the doc told me to. A lot of people take vitamins, some just because they think it’s a good thing and some because like me their doctor has recommended that they do. But does vitamin supplementation add to being 50plusPlusFit?

Some take more vitamins than others, but here’s just a sample of one… me. As I said, I take vitamins, and another daily over-the-counter med, because my doctor advised so. A few years back, when I was still in the large Fortune 500 world, I was taking an annual physical funded by my employer. This was back in 2001 and the physical was very thorough, done at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Everything checked out o.k. but the doctor recommended some vitamin supplementation… did he ever!

Here’s my daily drill, as recommended by the doc:

  • one multi-vitamin
  • 1,000 mg of vitamin C, taken in two doses, a.m. and p.m.
  • 400 IU of vitamin E – NOTE: I recently dropped this because now medical science says it promotes prostate cancer. Ugh!
  • one low-dose aspirin (I’m told for the aging ticker).

Now frankly, I don’t know if I’m healthier for it, but I’ve been following this regimen ever since, and I’ve just qualified for the lowest premium rate in life insurance, only given to the top 5%. So I guess you could say, “It couldn’t hurt!” Or, could it? Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

Well, as they say, opinions are like noses, everyone has a different one. And, when it comes to vitamins and other nutritional supplements, the world is full of differing opinions. Bob’s regimen is not uncommon but, there may be a small amount of waste. All of what he’s taking are good – but possibly the amounts are somewhat suspect. Let’s continue …

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First of all you should strive to source the vast majority of your nutrients from food, good fresh, nutritious food, and keep track of how you do with an easy-to-use online food tracker like the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. You can track as few or as many nutrients as you like, use the printable food journal and print off your shopping list too.

Nutritional supplements are “substances found in nature” and therefore are not regulated or monitored by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) or any other governmental agency. Therefore, when it comes to supplementing your diet with a multivitamin – and you really should – it’s important to be a smart shopper.

Most importantly, fitness industry experts tell us that even if you consume well-rounded meals and really pay attention to what you’re eating, you still will fall short of necessary nutrients that your body requires. We’re told that fresh foods aren’t as nutrient rich as they were when we 50+ers were younger. That means vitamin supplementation is a must. Now, however, you’re entering the “Caveat Emptor” (buyer beware) Zone!

You see, you can buy bargain-brand multivitamins at the corner drug, at your neighborhood grocery – even the dollar store! But, how truly nutritious and complete are they? Every vitamin manufacturer CLAIMS to produce a complete, nutritious multivitamin but, how do you know? Conversely, you can spend $20-$200 a month on vitamins that claim to be full of all sorts of additional benefits such as antioxidants but, are they really?

Personal experience: I tried a multivitamin product that cost $117/month. After 6 months, I didn’t feel any different than when I was taking a $15 multivitamin that I had been taking prior to the expensive brand. I know the brand that I’m comfortable with and can’t justify the extra $102/month for a “high end” product that didn’t provide any additional physical benefits to me. The final test was blood work that was conducted by my physician. That blood work did not indicate that the “high-end” product was any more effective than what I’d taken before. The blood work on either vitamin was virtually the same and my energy level was consistent – regardless of which vitamin I was taking.

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So, how do you begin? A good place to begin is on the internet, read about different products, look for purity, consistency, reliability (have they had a recall?), etc. Many good brands are produced in a pharmaceutical lab – just like prescription medications. Others unfortunately, are made in a manufacturing environment that is substandard and impurities may enter into the final product. Just choosing a heavily-advertised brand isn’t going to be the best approach here. Just because you see it on T.V., or in print doesn’t make that brand the best for you. Be sure to research for the best product!

An additional consideration is absorption rate. That is, how well does your body utilize the ingredients found in the multivitamin. For most of us, a few hours after taking a popular brand multivitamin that is designed for one dosage per day, we usually eliminate up to 70% of the ingredients when urinating. The test here is if your urine is an unusually bright yellow/green color a few hours after taking a multivitamin, you have lost most of that product to the public sewage system! Other brands are often designed with a lower dosage per tablet to be consumed multiple times daily for better absorption and therefore, better overall health.

Look for a vitamin that offers 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) as set by the federal government but, remember, more isn’t necessarily better here. For example, you don’t need 500% of the RDA of vitamin C. And, taking 5 doses of a multivitamin with an RDA of 100% isn’t wise either.

So, with all that there is to consider finding a vitamin that is the best for you, please remember that we’re not here to promote any particular brand or product – but we definitely encourage you to take care of yourself and your health by including a multivitamin in your daily routine. Be sure to research which multivitamins are best for you and your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle and goals!