The Nutrition Debate: Enough is NEVER Enough

A recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine tried to put a nail in the coffin of nutritional supplements. “ Unregulated, not safe, harmful, and no benefits” shouted the authors of the Letter to the Editor of the journal.  Yet another attempt by physicians and the pharmaceutical industry to put a damper on the use and sale of vitamins and minerals.
 
This time – their own colleagues didn’t let them get away with it.  Medial and scientific heavyweights such as Harvard Public Health doctor Walter Willet, and Bruce Ames from the Oakland Research Institute put the brakes on Dr. Guallar and his colleagues by stating that their comments were wrong, and misguided in today’s world of eating.
 
They first quote that even with a “well-balanced diet” – which NO ONE eats anymore, there are still essential nutrients, such as Vitamins D and E, magnesium, Vitamin A, calcium, and others such as potassium and Vitamin K that need to be supplemented.  Quoting other authors such as Dr. Joel Wallach – almost everyone suffers from a lack of minerals, due to depleted soils over the past 75 years.
 
They take Guallar and his colleagues to task for overstating the bad effects of too much vitamins, and state that only about 0.1% of persons may exceed the amounts of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin E.  A small percentage of the 99% who are lacking in most vitamins.  
 
The thrust of this article isn’t so much what we’re lacking as a society, or which medical study may be more right than another.  The point here is that, along with everything else in America – there are now two sides to the nutrition debate.  It’s not even a question of proportions.  Someone is right, and someone is wrong.  If you are the AMA and the pharmaceutical industry, those whacky pill-popping hippies who take those useless vitamins every day are wrong, but we have to tell them what to do regarding their health (don’t take those vitamins, as they are harmful).
 
Now we have scientists on the lefty side of the argument stating that indeed there is a place for supplements in our diet, and that the mainstream medical doctors are incorrect in their discussions about vitamins.
 
I have been involved in this debate since 1986 when I attended my first nutrition symposium from a company called United Sciences of America seminar back in Ann Arbor, MI.  It was really a multi level marketing company that wanted my money.  However – one thing that struck me as a graduate assistant in health promotion was the statement at that time that this company had compiled over 500,000 studies on nutrition and supplements before they brought their product on the market.
 
Fast forward 28 years, and the Internet, and now we have millions of studies on this subject, and millions of reports on the benefits of nutrition.  Are all of these studies flawless?  No, but one can say the same thing about much of the research on pharmaceuticals, too.