It’s been four months and we still don’t miss you

Vitamins or diet? She’s on the case!

Today’s run (street): 5.9 miles

Back in December, I wrote about a study that was reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine about the efficacy of multivitamins. According to their findings, taking multivitamins provided no preventative benefits related to cancer, heart disease or any other chronic illnesses. Unlike medicines such as ibuprofen that show benefits within the hour, we’ve all taken it on faith that multivitamins work. According to the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare (Centrum vitamins) marketing department, “Multivitamins are intended to be used as part of an overall healthy lifestyle and can help fill the gaps in one’s diet to help ensure people get the recommended amount of key vitamins and minerals needed each day.”

So do they actually help? Well the Emerging Runner family decided in December that those findings were a good enough reason to stop taking them. Almost four months have passed since we last took our daily doses. Besides a few days of sneezes and sniffles in February, we haven’t missed them at all.

Our family eats well, with plenty of whole grains, vegetables, salads, lean meats and plant-based proteins. I’m betting that our diet provides sufficient protection. Therefore, I’m going to conclude that multivitamins are unnecessary, at least for healthy eaters. I did have a rough patch with my running this winter, but I attribute that to poor training rather than to either diet or the lack of a multivitamin.  

And those horse pills are no joy to swallow, either.

Men’s Journal had an article in the March issue that restated these findings and offered other evidence that vitamin supplements don’t work. I’d be curious to know how these conclusions have affected vitamin sales, or if most people continue to take them just to be safe.

This morning I had a very nice run around my surrounding neighborhoods. Now that I’m regularly exceeding five miles when I go out, I can feel a real difference in my endurance. Curiously, I started to feel a drop in energy around 30 minutes in, but within ten minutes, I felt as strong as I did at the start. This structured training seems to be working. Why did it take me six years to start following a plan?

Sorry doctors, but I’m ignoring your advice

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.4 miles  

Back in the early ’90’s, when I first moved to NYC, it seemed like I was always battling a cold or virus. One weekend my sister confronted my constant state of illness and asked me whether I took a multi-vitamin. I said that I didn’t think they provided any real benefits. She guaranteed me that if I took a daily vitamin for a month, my constant sniffling and coughing would go away.

I figured it was worth trying, if only to prove her wrong. Thirty days later, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a symptom. Ever since then, I’ve taken a daily vitamin. Except for a very very bad week, I’ve been pretty good at fighting off illnesses. My wife and kids have also taken vitamins on a daily basis and they rarely get sick.

When I saw on the news today that the Annals of Internal Medicine had published an article entitled, “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements”, I had to disagree. After all, what makes these doctors, with their years of training and expertise, more qualified than me to decide if vitamins are good or bad? Not only are these doctors saying vitamins don’t help, they are saying that taking vitamins may pose certain risks. Does my sister know??!!!

Seriously, I’m conflicted by this news. I’ve taken a daily vitamin for over 20 years and have a healthy immune system. But I also run 20 miles a week and eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So is it my diet or the daily supplement? It’s not quite as paradoxical as Schrödinger’s cat, but it’s pretty hard to prove one way or the other.