A follow up to my “Patches” post.
“Do we need vitamins? Yes. Do we need vitamin supplements? In most cases, no.”
Today, there are thousands and thousands of supplements for sale. Do any work? The evidence is lacking for most. With little incentive to test their products, manufacturers often bring products to market without any credible evidence of efficacy. And the contrast with science-based medicine can be striking. There’s no effective drug treatment for dementia, but there are plenty of supplements with claims of benefit. Echinacea doesn’t prevent or treat colds, but it’s a $130 million-per-year business. Today you find supplements to treat most serious medical conditions, and even made up diseases, like “adrenal fatigue”. Offit discusses the duds but also the products that do have some promising evidence, including omega-3 acids to prevent heart disease, calcium and vitamin D for osteoporosis, and folic acid during pregnancy.
I also found another good article about probiotics. When I first started this diet, I was having trouble with my bowels. I had always had trouble with my bowels. I wanted to fix it and I bought into the probiotics hype. I choose Philips Colon Health probiotic. I saw the commercials on TV and what they said seemed legitimate. Probiotics claims to add “good” bacteria into your bowels, promoting “better digestive health”. It has about three strains of good bacteria in each pill. The price was about $15 for thirty pills that are supposed to be taken daily. I signed up for the Amazon.com subscription to be sent a bottle once a month, knocking the price down to about $11, if I recall correctly. I took the pills for about two weeks, and believed my bowels to work better. I was quite certain that it fixed my gas pain problem. Then I read this article in the LA times. The studies seemed skeptical, and I became so too. The more reading I did, the more I came to the conclusion that I probably don’t need it.
From the excellent probiotic article on Science-Based Medicine.org:
Some further fine points about the probiotics
– Lactobacillus in yogurt in not necessarily lactobacillus usually found in probiotic pills. Yogurt is usually L. acidophylis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. The yogurt bacteria turn sugar to lactic acid, making the milk curdle turning it into yogurt. The lactobacillus in probiotics contain one of more Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri , Lactobacillus rhamnosus, or Lactobacillus GG. As mentioned, these are not the Lactobacill found in humans.
-The Bifidobacterium found in probiotics are not necessarily the Bifidobacterium found in and on you. There are many strains of Bifidobacterium, only a fraction of which are included in probiotics.
– Saccharomyces boulardii, found in some probiotics, is not a normal part of your flora.
– Typical of the unregulated supplement industry, what is on the label may not be in the bottle of probiotic pills. In several studies that have compared what is on the label with what is actually grown, not only were the organisms misidentified, sometimes the bacteria were dead were dead. Organisms not mentioned on the label, like enterococcus, were sometimes isolated. But then enterococcus is a real constituent of the gi tract.
– Probiotics, not being part of the normal flora, are cleared and cannot be isolated soon after stopping eating the probiotic. They are not normal flora and will not persist unless you keep consuming them.
If you are worried about your normal gut bacteria, be reassured. We are always consuming fecal flora in the food you eat and the water you drink. The food, your spouse, and the world, is covered in a thin patina of gastrointestinal bacteria, so you are always repleting your bacterial flora orally. Bon appetite.
Then I saw this article today from Doubtful News:
From the article:
“It’s not too surprising that this study shows probiotics have no efficacy. The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria constituting thousands of different species, probiotic supplements contains only 6 billion or so bacteria and typically only one species, the most common being Lactobacillus spp. The idea of good bacteria versus bad bacteria is generally a myth, nearly all the bacteria in the gut are beneficial in normal amounts, only when antibiotics provide the conditions for species like Clostridium difficile to thrive are there problems, which supplementing with a comparatively small number of external bacteria isn’t going to help.”
After quitting the probiotics, I was able to correct most of my bowel problems with slight modifications in my diet, the majority seemed to be from eating a lot of mozzarella cheese sticks as mid-day snacks. I made sure I got at least 64 ounces of water and ate more green leafy vegetables. Problem solved. Saved money too.
I don’t take megavitamins, supplements, or weird poo pills. If I’m lacking something, I modify my diet to include it. My body will adjust.
This morning somebody mentioned 5-hour energy drinks. It got me to thinking about why we have such a product to begin with. Why do we drink coffee, or Gatorade, or take supplements? Why do we take pills to fall asleep? Are our bodies so far out of whack that as a species we need to manufacture patches to compensate for poor diet? I hear people talk about how shitty they feel all the time. Most of my Facebook friends are constantly posting pictures of themselves drinking (a lot of) wine or beer and eating cheesecake on a weeknight then belly aching then next morning.
Lay off the booze and the deserts! I scream inside.
Energy drinks are a bad sign. If you need a 5-hour energy drink because you have no energy, it’s because your body isn’t getting the fuel it needs. And I’m not talking bogus B vitamin claims or caffeine amounts, I’m talking about everyday food you should be eating and food you shouldn’t be eating. If you feel shitty during the work week, lay off the several glasses of wine or cocktails the night before. Wait until a Friday or Saturday night when you have an empty schedule. Better yet, quit drinking. Your liver will thank you. It isn’t rocket science.
If you find yourself taking a crap load of vitamins, ask yourself why. You can eat an array of vegetables and fruits to give you enough of the right stuff to keep healthy – why are you swallowing pills? The answer of course is you are eating crap during the day and you have to compensate somehow.
Watch a hour of television and count how many commercials try to sell you a product that patches you. This includes meal shakes (“on the GO”) and probiotics (your gut can manufacture enough bacterium except in rare cases when antibiotics wipe them out). The actors in the commercials always shrug and ask “when do I have time to eat something healthy?”. My favorite is the Snickers bar commercials that claim to give a “pick me up”. Sugar is one of the worst things for you. Your body is able to create the energy it needs – if you let it do its job and feed it right.
Face it, our diets are crap and there are companies getting rich on patches we shouldn’t have to rely on.