#37 - Having to Eat a Whole Loaf of Bread To Prevent Vitamins From Making Me Vomit

Why, oh why, do vitamins need to be so powerful that I’m forced to consume a bag of flour to keep them from making me puke my guts out? How am I supposed to believe that something is healthy when, unless I take drastic measures, swallowing it usually results in my vomiting violently?

I have to say, I’m skeptical about vitamins. Well, actually, I should say I’m skeptical about vitamin supplements. I’m sure vitamin A, the actual nutrient, is just doing its thing—strengthening my ocular nerves. And vitamin E is probably just trundling through my system plumping up my soft tissues (or whatever it does.) I’m also pretty sure I don’t have scurvy, so I’m getting vitamin C from somewhere. But I did a story a while back with a guy who runs a testing facility that does independent lab evaluations of supplements and other “health products,” and he was quite candid about how shoddy a lot of them can be.

The reason I was speaking with him in the first place was that, at long last, the government has established a set of Good Manufacturing Practices for the supplement and vitamin industry. The magazine I was working for wondered to what degree this lessened the need for vigilance in its army of six-pack desirers.

His answer, I’m sorry to report, was essentially "not at all." He made it very clear that while the new standards dictated a level of reason in the actual manufacturing processes used to make the pills, powders and tablets, they would, 1. NOT be enforced, and 2. Still enacted no control over what's in the supplements themselves.

He said, for example, that if someone were manufacturing an echinacea supplement, the new standards would require them not to use sawdust or cotton fibers as a filler in the tablets. But they would not specify how much eccanacia needed to be in the product, what part of the echinacea plant should be used to make it, or even that echinacea actually be shown to have any effect in the first place.

I asked him the keys to identifying bad supplement products and he said the number one red flag was “borrowed science.”

“Look at hoodia,” he ranted, “there is not one clinical trial showing that hoodia does anything at all, but it’s now all over the weight loss market based on a speculative effect that it might have.”

He also cautioned people interested in taking supplements to seek out independent evaluations that provide guidelines on how much, and what type of, the active ingredient they should take.

“Just because there’s evidence ginko biloba can improve memory doesn’t mean the supplement you’re taking will provide it. How much do you need to take for it to be effective? What part of the plant contains the desired ingredient? Will the tablet or pill break down sufficiently to have any effect?”

Personally, given the shoddiness and witchcraft that are obviously rampant in the supplement industry, the highly questionable prospect of the products having any results at all, and the fact that the god damn things make me throw up about 40% of the time, I’m just going to eat a mango.

Soon: My Top Four Most Amazing Vomiting Experiences!


Anonymous said...

Did you mean echinacea?

Chris Connolly said...

I did. Thanks.