Monday, February 23, 2009

Praise For Vitamins, Scorn For The Times

I have been on a fairly extensive daily regimen of vitamins and dietary supplements for about 20 years. These include Vitamins B-Complex, Ester C and E, as well as aspirin, CoQ-10, hemp oil and magnesium. I have survived a stroke, sailed through surgery and battled rheumatoid arthritis to a draw. Except for the not untypical aches and pains of a 61-year-old who probably could get more exercise, I feel great physically, my mental acuity is better than it was two decades ago, I need less sleep, don't get the afternoon nods on the job and my pencil is sharper than ever.

Can I prove that a state of health that many people my age would envy to that vitamin-and-supplement regimen? Of course I can't. But to deny that this regimen, along with a balanced meat-free and veggie-and-fruit rich diet, has helped keep me vigorous in body and mind is to spit in the face of common sense.

Which brings to me to an article in The New York Times ominously headlined "Vitamin Pills: A False Hope?" by Tara Parker-Pope that should have been spiked, or at the very least vetted by a skeptical editor.

The premise of the article is that vitamins can't prevent or cure cancer and prevent chronic disease, so by extension they can't be worth a damn in general, a contention that is silly on its face and irresponsibly misleading.

Of course vitamins can't prevent or cure the Big C and a host of other sometimes fatal maladies. But they do make a difference in innumerable other situations.

To name but a few:

* The use of calcium by women because it replenishes bone loss.

* The use of folic acid in pregnant women because it helps prevent birth defects.

* The use of vitamins in fighting autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease.

Perhaps Parker-Pope knows something that nutritionists don't, let alone non-doper athletes who routinely take vitamins and supplements as part of their training regimens because they make them healthier and therefore better able to compete.

Then there is Vegemite, a yeast-extract food paste that is among the richest sources of B vitamins. It happens to be a basic part of the Australian diet. Yeah, the folks who on a per capita basis win more Olympic medals than any other nation in the world.

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