Should you buy vitamins from your friends?
© 2015 Roy Benaroch, MD
Alison wrote in:
It seems like every time my (almost 6 year old) child gets sick, a line forms of sales-friends who try to convince me that ‘ever since they gave their child Juice Plus+, they haven’t been sick.’ Could you give your opinion from your medical perspective? Personally, I prefer to give Flintstones vitamins with the iron, but I’d love to have a better understanding of the best vitamins to give.
Vitamins are an interesting psycho-sociological phenomenon. We know that we need them—if you don’t get any vitamin C, you’re fairly quickly going to suffer a fairly horrendous death—but we barely need much of any of them. Just a few milligrams, here and there, not even every day, will keep you and your children chugging along just fine. But, of course, being the creatures that we are, many people seem to view vitamins as having magical abilities. If a tiny bit is good, a whole lot more is better. Or, since some vitamins are involved in energy metabolism, taking a whole lot of them will give you more energy. Or cure a hangover, or make you invulnerable to colds, the flu, and presidential debates. Magic!
The truth is, vitamins are just chemicals. Like any other chemical, once you swallow it your body doesn’t know or care if it came from a leaf or a pill; and it certainly doesn’t care if it came from a cheapo pill or an expensive, name-brand pill sold by one of your “sales-friends.” A vitamin is a vitamin. If you think your child needs one (and he probably doesn’t), take an inexpensive one and save up some money to buy more yummy fresh fruits and veggies. Because those, he could probably use. A pill that claims to be a replacement for real fruits and real veggies? Sold as part of a multilevel marketing scheme? Please.
What about vitamins for parents? Several good studies in adults show that people who regularly take multivitamins have poorer health. Makes you wonder about all of that vitamin marketing.