Tag Archive: medicine

This is a very controversial topic. Before you all get mad at me and tell me why your doctor said you should take vitamin ‘X’- relax. I am not trying to contradict medical professionals (who are way smarter than me), I just want to make you think about what you put in your body. So, should we be taking vitamins?

The short answer: Who Knows!?!
The long answer: This is a hot topic as of late and I have done my best to do my own research. What I have found is a lot of contradictory information without a lot of good research. I will try to explain and summarize what I have learned below, but the goal of this post is only to make you think. Please discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor before making any changes.
‘Business’ and Vitamins: According to Consumer Reports, Vitamin and Supplement sales is a $4 Billion a year industry. In 2008 and 2009 when most industries were struggling, the vitamin business was booming and it still is today. Vitamin D sales alone have doubled in recent years. Many people have started taking vitamins as a preventative measure because of uncertainties with health care and rising health care expenses. Half of adult Americans are taking a multivitamin or other supplement for their health.
‘Regulation’ and Vitamins: The FDA has a bit of a strange deal with these vitamins and supplements. They regulate them like they do with food, not like they do with drugs and/or medications. This means that they don’t evaluate the safety of these products before they hit the shelves. They DO however have the over-sight to pull a dangerous product off the shelves if something is deemed unsafe. The FDA does have rules and restrictions that these companies have to follow. For example, the claims that vitamins make on their labels have to come with the disclaimer that the statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. As long as that is clear, they can say that their ‘vitamin B pill will improve energy’ even though they have not proven that statement. Also, all ingredients must be listed on the label with approximate amounts. The exception here is that some supplements are by prescription only. These prescription supplements are regulated more closely than the over-the-counter options and are therefore believed to be a safer choice.
‘Research’ and Vitamins: This is probably the most frustrating part about vitamins and supplements. The research is constantly contradicting itself. For example, one study showed that taking a Vitamin E supplement decreased the risk of prostate cancer, but it increased the risk of death from hemorrhagic stroke. Another example is that some doctors were recommending beta-carotene for cancer prevention. After doing an experiment with male, smokers in Finland, they realized that the men taking beta-carotene experienced a 7% higher overall death rate than the placebo group. This has happened over and over-where a vitamin might decrease your risk of heart disease but increases your risk of cancer.
On the other hand, studies have shown that people who take a multivitamin are generally healthier than people who do not. But, what does this really tell us? Are the people healthier because of the vitamins, or are they healthier because they are the type of people who care enough about their health to take a vitamin. In other words, do they just take better care of themselves? This was the only study I could find that found a clear benefit from taking a multivitamin. Most of them are inconclusive. It’s hard to know if vitamins are helping because people’s individual diets vary so much you can’t really study the outcomes. There is just not enough control.
‘Quantity’ and Vitamins: I was looking at a friends vitamins not too long ago and noticed that he was taking a multi-vitamin and a vitamin B supplement. When I asked him why he was taking the ‘B’ he said “because the label said ‘improves metabolism'”. At closer inspection, the multi provided 150% of the recommended daily value of ‘B’ and the ‘B’ supplement was providing 5,000% percent of his recommend daily value! No, that is not a typo. He was taking 5,150% of what they recommend per day. What does this mean to our bodies? Maybe our bodies are only absorbing a small percentage of what’s in these pills and therefore taking more is necessary. Or maybe we are just flushing out the extra and creating very expensive pee. How do we know? If you are already eating a pretty healthy diet with fruits, veggies, fish, lean proteins, etc. do you really need to take an additional 100% or more of every vitamin?
‘The Exception’ and Vitamins: One area where the experts do tend to agree is with special populations. Doctors recommend that all women who are pregnant take a pre-natal vitamin that contains folic acid for the growing baby’s development. Patients who have a legitimate deficiency should take a vitamin to try to correct this imbalance. People who live in third world countries and do not get the nutrients that Americans have every day would definitely benefit from supplementation. When I was pregnant I took a pre-natal vitamin everyday faithfully. The risk of not taking one was leaps and bounds higher than the risk of taking one.
‘Media’ and Vitamins: We have to stop trusting every headline on the news or in the newspaper! Day to day you could see ‘breaking news’ regarding the benefits or dangers of vitamins. The media takes bits and pieces of studies and finds a catchy headline, “Vitamin E cures cancer!” Or, I can hear the newscaster in my head, “Is that multivitamin poisoning your child? More, at 10pm.” Take everything you hear with a grain of salt and don’t make drastic adjustments based on what you read in USA Today.
The ‘Summary’ of Vitamins: So, now that I have officially confused you… Like I said before, this is just to make you think a little bit about what you are putting in your body-I’m not against multivitamins. We need to be educated consumers. We need to do some research on our own, and we need to talk to our doctors about the benefits and the risks of everything we take. In all of the research I did there was one common trend- vitamins can NOT replace food. We would all be better off getting 100% of our nutrients from whole foods. You know- the produce section in the grocery store. It’s better to get Vitamin C from an orange or a bell pepper than from a pill. It’s better to get your Omega fatty acids from fatty fish than from a fish oil pill. Michael Pollan (my favorite food author of all time) recommends in his book Food Rules two very common sense ideas. The first is to “be the kind of person that takes a vitamin, without actually taking a vitamin.” And, the second is to “eat food, mostly plants, not too much.”
Humans are very complicated systems. We each have our own unique health risks and histories. What is right for you might not be right for your husband or daughter. We are not a one-size-fits-all society and we need to consider that when deciding what to do with our bodies

With all the debate and controversy over the health care reform in our country, I feel like I am going to lose my mind. There is so much BS and non-sense out there that I thought I would share my thoughts because I am sure you are all dying to know my opinion on ‘obama-care’ (there really should be a sarcasm font).

A little background information: The United States (at last ranking) was ranked 37th overall in health care. 37th! That puts us behind Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Cyprus. But some good news- we just edged out Slovenia. At the same time our rank is 37 for overall health care, we are #1 for health care spending. We’re #1! We’re #1! Meanwhile, we rank 39th in infant mortality. This statistic is absolutely outrageous! We should be appalled and marching thru the streets over this. All of those conservative pro-lifers should be up in arms! If you truly want to protect every life- lets provide health care for our pregnant women or help prevent pregnancy in the first place (but I digress..). And lastly, we are the only industrialized nation to not have universal health care.

So the health care reform calls for many things-some great things. For example, Insurance companies would not be able to deny your claim because of pre-existing conditions. I think most of us can agree that this is a good thing. The issue that is making the tea-party so crazy is the section that requires ALL Americans to have some type of health care. People are arguing that this is unconstitutional and the government is over-reaching, etc. The popular argument is that if the government can make you buy health insurance, what is to stop them from making us buy/eat broccoli? Yeah, because that is the next logical step.

Why do we make people buy car insurance? We have this law in place so that if someone hits you and it is their fault, you will be able to receive some sort of compensation. It protects the innocent driver that is not at fault and does have insurance. I know what you are thinking, “But not everybody has to drive. If you can’t afford car insurance you can choose not to drive.” I hear this argument all the time. Hate to break it to you, but it’s not that simple. Bottom line, you cannot choose to not have a heart attack. You cannot choose to not have a stroke. What happens if you show up in the emergency room with a life or death situation and you do NOT have insurance? The doctors are not going to ‘choose’ not to save your life. Our society/country saves people. Our doctors will save you, our paramedics will come pick you up and provide emergency medicine. If you don’t have insurance and you are poor, who do you think ends up paying your hospital bills? Everyone else! Hospitals jack up prices to cover the costs of those who can’t pay. It is a vicious cycle. As for the broccoli argument, if you don’t buy broccoli the cost of my broccoli doesn’t go up and I don’t have to pay for your emergency broccoli in the future.

I’m not even going to get into the argument of how having a cheap public option would bring down the cost of private insurance. That is a completely separate post. But I do feel like I need to address the morality issue here. Who are we?!? Since when did we become a society that cared so much more about ourselves than our fellow citizens? Why are we okay with people slowly dying from chronic diseases because they don’t have insurance? Why are we okay with people losing their homes because they can’t pay their medical bills? These are real people, real families. We have people all over the country choosing between dinner and their medication because they can’t afford both. This situation in the richest country in the world- we should be ashamed. The generations before us made sacrifice after sacrifice for the betterment of the country. All we did was become a bunch of entitled brats that think because we made something of ourselves that anyone else could have/should have too, and therefore it’s not our problem. This makes me sad. We need reform. We made a small step in the right direction and we could potentially lose all progress depending on what the supreme court decides. This isn’t a democrat thing, or an Obama thing. This is a human beings thing. We can do better.