Vitamins – A Bleg

For those who don’t know what a ‘bleg’ is, I will give you a quick definition. It is a verb (to bleg) that means using one’s blog to ask for assistance. Many times it is for money. In my particular case it is for information on vitamins in general, and a multi vitamin in particular. We seem to have a lot of scientists, a few doctors and a lot of all around smart people here, so I say why not use the resource.

I am a businessman and really don’t know much about chemistry, and don’t know anything at all about body chemistry. Here is where the bleg comes to our dear readers and contributors.

In the past year I have started to take my body places I never thought it would go as far as physical fitness is concerned. I bike, practice Muay Thai, run and do other things such as push-ups, sit-ups, etc.

I am a 38 year old male, and now weigh just under 180 lbs., 6′ 1″. I plan on going down to about 175 or so. My doctor says I am in the top one percent of his patients as far as my general health is concerned. “Healthy as a horse” as my parents are fond of saying.

A few months ago I decided to supplement my diet with a multi-vitamin. I had no reason to do this other than having general knowledge that vitamins are good for you. I am also under the impression that any extra vitamins that go into your body are simply purged.

This is the one I am taking. Every day when I pop one I am simply amazed that all of that stuff is crammed into that tiny pill. As you can see it has 100% or more of all kinds of things that I have no idea what they do for me. I suppose they are good, but I don’t think that multi vitamins have to go through FDA approvals. Not that the approval means anything either.

I guess I am trying to determine if it is worth it and if it is healthy to take this thing. I eat very healthy foods most of the time and exercise vigorously at least four times a week for an hour. I have not really noticed a difference in how I feel since I started taking the multi-vitamin several months ago. I hate doing things just because common knowledge says that it is good for you. Remember margarine? We are all supposed to be back to eating butter now.

I would greatly appreciate any input from folks who know what these things are all about and can tell me how they work – and if they work at all. Thank you!

27 thoughts on “Vitamins – A Bleg”

  1. I don’t know. I go through periods of taking vitamins followed by changing my mind and not taking vitamins. Recently I started taking them again. They give a nice, deep color to my urine but I can’t detect any other effects. Maybe I will live longer. Who knows. I am more cautious about it than I used to be, since a couple of my former staples (E and beta carotene) are now regarded skeptically or even negatively. The FDA RDAs for the various vitamins, trace metals and the like are generally based on old information and are not necessarily good guides to optimal dosage, though they probably are good guides to avoiding taking too much.

    BTW, garlic is now supposed to be good for us. Eat more garlic!

  2. Garlic will probably be verboten in a few years, like all the other good stuff. Eggs are supposed to be good for you again, and those have come and gone in and out of favor countless times. I say eat more pork fat, but in moderation, of course.

  3. I don’t think a daily Flintstones Chewable will do you much more harm than a daily cabernet. If you’re eating all your veggies, the main benefit (as Jonathan pointed out) is likely to be expensive urine.

  4. Vitamins come in 2 “flavors” water soluble and fat soluble. One of the reasons vitamins should be taken with some sort of food is so the fat soluble vitamins will be absorbed. On an empty stomach they pass right through – and you’ve wasted your time and money taking them.

    The water soluble vitamins dissolve in water (naturally) and are absorbed easily if needed in normal people. They will simply be excreted once your body has amassed enough of them. I find that I tend to run low on B vitamins so a multi vitamin (I take Stresstabs with Zinc) is something that does me a lot of good. You can tell if you’re low on B vitamins if your tongue gets odd looking patches on it and – if you’re really low – it gets sore.

    The fat soluble vitamins are a whole other kettle of fish. Vitamin A especially can be very bad for you if you take too much. Although a multi vitamins generally have a very low dose – the RDA is deliberately low so people don’t overdo it.

    Hope that helps some. Basically, if there are any vitamins your body needs extra of, a multi vitamin will be good. If there aren’t, it won’t do you any good, but it won’t hurt you either. Depends on your body and your metabolism – everyone is different.

  5. Every dietitian I know (and yes, I do know a good number of RDs) says that getting nutrients through foods is always preferable to getting them through vitamin supplements.

    Here’s the thing, food is incredibly chemically complex. A carrot is way more than just a Vitamin A stick. An orange is more than an Vitamin C ball. Just because we have discovered some of the important chemicals in food and given them slick names, it doesn’t mean that these are all you need. Also, it’s possible that some vitamins only work well when they are consumed in that chemically complex food.

    I don’t think that multivitamins are going to hurt you (aside from a few specific circumstances — if you smoke, don’t take beta-carotene, if you take too much iron, you’ll be constipated, etc.) but for most folks they probably don’t really do much good (again, except for a few circumstances — like if you are pregnant you gotta make sure you are getting that folate, if you are a vegan, you need B12, if you’re anemic you need iron, etc.). I don’t do nutritional research per se but I do some research where I need to control for diet because it could influence the predictor – outcome relationship that I’m trying to isolate. In my own research I’ve found that it doesn’t make much difference if I also control for vitamin supplement use in addition to diet, even when looking at something that should be directly related to vitamin use, like circulating serum nutrient levels. Why is this? I think it’s because most people who take vitamins are like you — they are already eating pretty darn healthily.

    So the bottom line is, go ahead and take vitamins if you want, it probably won’t hurt. But an even better choice would probably be to focus on getting your 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

  6. Personally I think taking vitamins is a good thing…

    Vegtables a source of vitamins depends on how they are prepared… Aren’t overcooked vegies just merely a source of roughage since much of the nutrients could be cooked out and broken down?

    We know that …spinach from California has on occassion not been good for you but then again neither has …hamburger

    Multivitamins are a cocktail that ensures the body is supplied with the minimum daily requirement of all essential vitamins. They have a long history of safe use for humans, and are based on the recommendations of international health organizations. Taking them regularly is a balanced, practical and affordable way to fill nutritional gaps

  7. We can think of nutrition as existing on two levels: the minimal needed to prevent disease and the optimal intake to insure maximal outcomes.

    The minimal amount of vitamins needed to prevent disease is easy to determine because people who get amounts below the minimum get disease. Determining the optimum is very tricky and I don’t think we have accomplished it for any type of nutrient. I’ve read up on this and beyond determining the minimum amounts of various vitamins needed to prevent disease we really have no idea how much any particular individual should get to assure optimal nutrition.

    So unless you follow some kind of restrictive diet, low-carb. low-fat, vegan etc, you probably won’t need vitamins. On the other hand, taking over the counter formulation won’t hurt you either. Avoid any mega dosage nonsense. Take vitamins with meals to assure absorption.

    Watch those Muay Thai knee kicks. They’re hell on the liver and spleen.

  8. Shannon – The multi vitamin I am taking doesn’t have any iron. As far as taking a knee in Muay Thai classes, I have avoided them so far. I have seen some guys actually get one in the solar plexus though and it ain’t pretty. I am, however, perpetually bruised though from punches and kicks on various parts of my body – part of the deal.

    Thanks all for the good comments. Hopefully there will be more on the morning shift here.

  9. Friend once told me I wsted money taking vitamins becuse look at urine. I pissed away my money. I told him to stop eating, because look at his stool, he shit away his food.Multivitamin costs but little and wil not harm you. Affords some possible protextion with no risk, so why not? How man y peo[le get the suggested veggies and fruit daily?

  10. I personally like Pharmaton, I don’t know whether it contains iron or not, but it sure gave me a boost a few months ago when I was coming home really tired every night. I started taking by recommendation of a doctor it and I felt so much better and stronger too. Although I do not take it anymore, I still keep a bottle around, just in case.
    My wife also reports that it also makes her want more sex, which I find very interesting, to say the less.

  11. I take Centrum and it seems to do the trick, whatever that is. I like to take it an night. My philosophy is this: I get a good amount of vitamins and minerals just with what I eat and I don’t need another dose of that stuff to just go down the tubes and out. By taking it at night when by body is resting and rebuilding, I offer it vitamins and minerals to help with the rebuilding process. Fresh start. :)

  12. I’m not sure if vitamins have a very limited shelf life, but vitamins might be a good item to have in the pantry “just in case” (of some systematic breakdown or catastrophe) a good diet becomes difficult or impossible to obtain.

  13. Oh yeah. The latest research shows that you have to drink at least 4 oz. of whiskey for each clove of garlic that you eat. Otherwise you lose the health benefits of the garlic.

  14. It is interesting you mention that Tyouth, I have vitamins stockpiled with the rest of my emergency kit – mens vitamins for me, womens for my wife and childrens for the kids. I can see in the case of a dirty nuke, or unbelievable natural disaster where you would find the vitamins essential, rather than a way to “top off” your diet, as it seems I am doing right now.

  15. Tyouth,

    …but vitamins might be a good item to have in the pantry “just in case”

    This is very sound planning. During starvation, the body runs out water soluble vitamins long before it runs out calories or protein. This lack of vitamins prevents the body from using the resources it does have. The law of threes says that a human can go approximately 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. A full supply of vitamins and water can let someone go 4 to 6 weeks without eating.

    I seem to recall that the Green Berets used to strap vitamins to their legs when they got sent far out in the sticks so that they could keep operating efficiently for days even if they couldn’t find food. I personally plan even farther ahead by keep several pounds of high calorie, lipid-based emergency rations strapped to my body at all times. If I had vitamins and a little protein, I could keep going for months!

    On another matter Tyouth, have you been in Austin, TX recently? I saw your name come up automatically in text field on a browser in an Apple Store there.

  16. If you think your urine is yellow, try taking a vitamin tablet or capsule with lots of riboflavin (vitamin B2) in it.

    You’ll need sunglasses to shield the fluorescent yellow that will appear shortly!

  17. Shannon, Re. Austin; I haven’t ever been there.

    You’re serious about keeping several pounds of rations strapped to you? I’d guess you are a traveling man (leading you to be prepared when far away from home)? In any case, you are prepared and that’s 90% of the requirement for success when facing the unexpected (“Be Prepared” – the Boy Scout motto, is it not?)

  18. A little while ago here in Japan it was reported that due to the continuous and intensive use of restricted portions of land domestically and in China, vegetables available in the Japanese market did not contain the expected or minimum amount of minerals and vitamins one is expected to obtain from them. Hence the need for supplements.

    I wonder how much true there is in it, and if it is really an issue.

  19. It has been about 50 years since “health food” stores sold cholesterol supplements. Cholesterol is in fact important for heath, but you don’t need a supplement.

    I’ve been told the two most common defeciencies are Vitamin D (because of not spending enough time in the noonday sun) and omega 3 (because omega 3 fats do not keep well they are in very few modern foods).

  20. Dan, the thing about vitamins is that you don’t know how well they work because you don’t know what virus or disease you didn’t get.

    I don’t eat meat and am a women, so I must take vitamins. I notice a huge difference in my energy level at the end of the day if I don’t take mine. My husband notices I’m also not as “hormonal” –whatever that means :)

    It’s important to do your own research and figure out what is optimum for you. A good multi-vitamin contains more vitamins than many of the “single source” vitamins that the “guru’s” try to sell. I did learn a lot from a herbalist a long time ago–although I didn’t buy anything she tried to sell me.

    Good Luck!

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