Vitamins and Research: Why I Take Supplements

A patient told me recently that her personal physician had questioned her about taking vitamin supplements. “Why are you taking those vitamins anyway?” Then, with a condescending tone, stated, “I don’t think you need them! I want you to stop taking them!”

Really? My patient was caught off guard. Doesn’t everyone know that vitamins are not only good for us, they are essential for great health? Why would he oppose taking something proven safe and, in fact, necessary for life and health, and yet embrace the idea of being on prescription drugs and treatments known to have significant side effects? It just didn’t make sense…

She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that her health, energy level, and weight were better than they had been in years, yet she could not readily defend herself and explain to this medical “authority” why she was taking vitamin supplements.

The fact is there are thousands of research articles documenting overwhelming benefits of consuming optimum amounts of vitamins and other health-promoting foods and supplements. And yet, typical busy physicians do not have the time (or perhaps the extra energy!) to spend evenings and weekends reading scientific nutrition journals.

The research, however, is clear!

Our bodies can only function properly and experience optimum health when they have proper nutrient intake through food or supplements… and food isn’t working for us!

In America, unnecessary fatigue, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugars, and joint pain are typically treated with multiple medications, even though the cause is most often poor nutrition. Medications have well documented side effects, yet they are the first recommendation from many physicians. I believe these drugs should be a last resort for nutritionally caused diseases, not a first one, for most patients.

Here’s what my patient could have said based on her actual experience…

Doctor, I’m under the care of a well-educated physician and dietitians who have thoughtfully considered my previous medical problems of obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, pre-diabetes, and osteoarthritis. They have determined that poor nutrition was the primary cause of my medical problems and that nutritional strategies should be the foundation for my recovery.

Following their recommendations, which included nutritional supplements, I was able to discontinue a diabetes medication and a cholesterol medication. I saw my weight drop 35 lbs, my triglycerides drop 100 points and my cholesterol drop 50 points. I now have a normal blood sugar, and my energy level has increased.

You see, my vitamins are a component of my nutrition plan, which is part of my health plan, and it’s working for me, just like my medical nutrition team predicted! So that’s why I’m taking the vitamins you asked about. Please let me continue what is working for me.

This article is designed to empower you as the caretaker of a precious human body that is susceptible to the harmful effects of poor nutrition. Fortunately, our bodies are very forgiving if cared for and nourished properly. Our deadly environment of low quality and damaging foods, high stress, sedentary jobs, and hidden pollutants has taken the lives of countless victims.

The epidemic of unnecessary and preventable death and disease is truly only going to be controlled when individuals, like you and I, start taking responsibility for what goes in to our bodies and what does not. I am a believer in nutritional supplements as one component of our personal nutrition plan to avoid nutrient deficiencies, which are epidemic and devastating in impact.

I trust this brief summary that follows will also empower you to understand and explain why you have chosen to make nutritional supplements a part of your health plan, regardless of the attitudes and influences of the world around us, a world that is experiencing a true health care crisis of preventable diseases!

“Research Study Reasons” why I take vitamins:

  • Reason #1: I choose not to be vitamin deficient like most Americans. My health is too important to me, and vitamins matter! 100% of Americans studied in 2006 did not achieve the RDA for vitamins from their foods. I choose to KNOW that I am getting adequate vitamins! By taking vitamin supplements, I can be sure to avoid the health risks of vitamin deficiencies!
    Research Study Fact: “Food alone in all 20 subjects (Americans) did not meet the RDA micronutrient requirements for preventing nutrient-deficiency diseases.” J Int Soc Sports Nutrition, 3(1):51-55,2006.
    Research Study Fact: “A dramatically lowered prevalence (occurence) of inadequate total (vitamin) intakes was observed across every vitamin that we examined among dietary supplement users when compared to the vitamin intakes from foods of nonusers.” J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 May: 112(5):657-663
  • Reason #2: I struggle with my weight, so I am at high risk of vitamin deficiencies. Overweight individuals are at extremely high risk of vitamin deficiencies and need to be extra cautious.
    Research Study Fact: “…overweight and obese individuals have lower blood concentrations of vitamins and minerals compared to non-overweight and non-obese individuals.” Nutrition Reviews 2009, Vol 67(10):559-572.
    Research Study Fact: “… obese individuals are characterized by micronutrient deficiencies….” Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:34.
  • Reason #3: My brain function is very important to me. I need it to work at top performance. Deficiencies of vitamins B1, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate are all extremely common in the U.S. and are known to cause depression, fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration, and memory loss. Also, deficiencies of some of these nutrients are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, for which there is no cure. These conditions are exactly the types of things I want to avoid. B-vitamin supplements, for example, were shown to slow the atrophy (deterioration) of gray matter in the brain. Since I love my brain, I choose to provide it with the nutrients that help keep it healthy!
    Research Study Fact: Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, D, and E were commonly at inadequate levels of intake from foods alone. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 May: 112(5):657-663
    Research Study Fact: “In conclusion, high plasma levels of vitamin E are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in advanced age.” J Alzheimers Dis, 20 (2010), pp 1029-1037.
    Research Study Fact: “… Alzheimer’s Disease cases had lower serum vitamin D…” J Alzheimers Dis, 33 (2013), pp. 659-74 “Higher vitamin D intake was associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 67 (2012), pp 1205-1211
    Research Study Fact: “…effective functioning of the brain depends on an adequate and constant nutrient supply” “…micronutrients are key for cognitive performance and mental well-being.” Nutrition. 24 JUL 2014, doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.016
  • Reason #4: I want to lose weight, increase my metabolism, and control my blood pressure. Vitamins support all of these goals and more!
    Research Study Fact: Multivitamin use for 26 weeks in obese women, without dieting, resulted in a 7.9 lb weight loss, a 53.2 calorie increase in resting metabolism rate, a 4.7/5.2 reduction in BP, and a 27 mg reduction in LDL cholesterol. International J of Obesity (2010) 34, 1070-1077
  • Reason #5: I want to avoid cancer, if at all possible, and vitamins are one part of my personal cancer prevention plan!
    Research Study Fact: “In this large prevention trial of male physicians, daily multivitamin supplementation modestly but significantly reduced the risk of total cancer.” “A reduction (8%) in total cancer among men…” “… long term daily multivitamin use had a modest but statistically significant reduction in the primary end point of total cancer after more than a decade of treatment…” JAMA Nov 14, 2012, Vol 308, No 18.

Never forget than an overall health promoting diet and lifestyle are crucial for optimum health. Supplements will never completely counteract the negative health effects of unmanaged obesity, smoking, pollution, or eating harmful foods. I want to sound that message loud and clear. Maintain optimum body chemistry through great overall nutrition and also supplement based on your life stage, your health goals and your personal risks. Nurture your body at every opportunity, including essential vitamins! And don’t let the world around you, the uninformed, or skeptics discourage you from taking care of your precious body through great nutrition… including vitamins!

For Optimum Health,

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.

P.S. Occasionally, a research study surfaces that does not find a benefit of a particular vitamin supplement. This is expected for logical reasons. Due to the expense of long-term research, some studies are stopped too early. Other studies, in fact, have used low quality “one a day” type vitamins, that do not contain research-based amounts of natural vitamins and minerals. Or, participants may have not been consistent in taking their vitamins. Obviously, each of us should make our own decision regarding vitamins based on the available information (including that reviewed in this article), our overall nutrition plan, our health status and our personal long term health goals.

P.P.S. I personally have taken a high quality multivitamin for many years. In an effort to support others in their pursuit of health, I have made our high quality Metabolism Multi available. Check out the label to learn more about my personal vitamin plan and recommendations on ingredients and doses. Click here to learn more…

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.

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