Human Exceptionalism

Are Vitamin Users Wasting Their Money?

I take vitamins from GMC for the over 50 male.  I have for years.  Since starting on vitamins, I have noticed that I feel good generally and have experienced far fewer colds and flu type maladies.  (Then again, I take a yearly flu shot.)  Plus, I hope they make up for some of the deficiencies in my diet–insufficient veggies and fruits, don’t you know.  So, all in all, I am generally satisfied. (Of course, I also make a point of washing my hands often during the day, particularly when I am out and about, which might have more to do with my general good health than vitamins.)

Everything I just wrote is all anecdotal, of course. But that’s far more how people decide about things than scientific studies–which often conflict anyway, and are too often disguised politics.  Besides, I have never thought there was scientific proof that vitamins improved health. Nor did I expect them to somehow reduce heart disease or prevent cancer. And now there is a major study out claiming that vitamins provide no protection against these two mass killers of humankind. From the Daily Mail story:

Researchers spent more than six years following 8,000 people and found that those taking supplements were just as likely to  have developed cancer or heart disease as those who took an identical-looking dummy pill. And when they were questioned on how healthy they felt, there was hardly any difference between the two groups. Experts said the study – one of the most extensive carried out into vitamin pills – suggested that  millions of consumers may be wasting their money on supplements.

I am not sure I would call it “wasting.”  It depends on what people want from vitamins.  If they think it is life extending, they probably are buying a pig in a poke. But if they take them like I do to promote general well being, I don’t think so–even if there is no scientific proof that they work or if the cause is the placebo effect.

There are advocates, of course, who push vitamins as a great means of reducing health care costs, studies be damned, such as this article in the Huffington Post. But I’ve never bought it.  Magic pills only occur in fairy tales and Hollywood productions.

Still, there is clearly a major industry in playing on people’s fears of ill health and death. And so I think studies like this are very helpful because they create realistic expectations and help people resist snake oil sales pitches. Supplements will not magically extend the length of our days. But then, neither will transhumanism.

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