Playing it “safe” with vitamin supplements? Think again!


Not only are those supplements not helping; they may be causing problems.

Americans take $27 billion worth of vitamin supplements every year, yet have by far the highest cost of health care (disease care) in the world.

Chances are the average American can name only four or five nutrients: protein, calcium, omega-3, vitamin C and Vitamin D. And, for the most part, they’re getting those five nutrients, and all the others, from the wrong sources.

According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard and other doctors featured in our book, we should be getting virtually all of our nutrients from whole plants. The only possible exceptions are Vitamin D (from the sun) and Vitamin B12.

Since beginning this blog in February of 2011, I have posted several times about the colossal waste of money ($27 Billion) known as the dietary supplementation business. In a country where some 90 percent of our calories are from meat, dairy, eggs or highly processed carbohydrates, most people turn to supplements to provide them with the nutrients that they are missing.

Sadly, vitamins delivered as supplements are just not getting the job done. While millions of Americans are taking daily multi-vitamins as well as concentrated vitamins; they’re thinking that they’re playing it safe by taking the supplements. That’s because, deep down inside, they know that they’re not eating a very healthy diet.

So what’s going on? We’re hearing more and more these days about the possible dangers of trying to get our vitamins from supplements. In this recent one-minute video from Dr. Michael Greger, he covers three of those dangers:

  • Elevated risk of esophageal cancer from taking folate supplements (but just the opposite when that folate came directly from plants)
  • Elevated risk of urinary tract infraction from taking Vitamin C pills (just the opposite when getting it from whole plants)
  • Greater risk of liver disease when consuming green tea extracts (just the opposite when consuming the tea itself)

What about omega-3 from fish oil supplements? As Dr. Campbell says, it’s mainly about the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in our diet. And most Americans get too much of the omega-6 from their meat and dairy diet—making the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 too high. When they replace all that meat and dairy with whole plants (including things like flaxseeds, walnuts and chia), that ratio gets quickly into balance—without the fish or fish oils. There is also a danger from taking those omega-3 fish-oil supplements. From our book:

Dr. Campbell also brings up a possible concern about consuming fish to get omega-3s. “If you’ve heard anything about omega-3 fatty acids, it’s that you need more of them to be healthy,” he says. Noting that you can’t always believe what you hear on the evening news, he offers the following from a 1999 Harvard study: “[C]ontrary to the predominant hypothesis, we found an increased risk of breast cancer associated with omega-3 fats from fish.”

The Bottom Line. The time has come to just say NO to vitamin supplements—with the possible exception of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. The sooner we all learn how to consume mostly whole plants, the better off we’ll all be. And our American consumers will save a cool twenty-seven billion dollars.

Want more information? Here’s a sampling of the previous nine blogs that I have posted on this topic.

In Closing. Saying good-bye to costly and dangerous vitamins is just one reason for you to switch to a whole foods, plant-based diet. There are many more compelling reasons and it’s not that hard to make the switch. Just learn all you can, give it 100% of your effort for 8 to 12 weeks and you’ll find that the positives in your health (and your weight-loss) will have you hooked for life. This will help you get the job done.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen. Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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4 Responses to Playing it “safe” with vitamin supplements? Think again!

  1. Claire Wilson says:

    Thanks for the article Morris and you have a great daughter-in-law who comes up with some utterly great recipes.

    I’ve been on the plant based diet for 9 years now after becoming a vegetarian 41 years ago and then vegan 21 years later. I feel better on the plant based diet though and it has done wonders for me and I thought I was doing good on the vegan diet but one needs the plant based as I’m sure you can attest to.

    I met Dr. Campbell last September! What a great guy.

    Thanks again for the article. I always read them and check out the new recipe.

  2. Joe McMahon says:

    Another huge problem from getting supplements in pill form is that the “synergistic” effects of these vitamins contained within whole plant-based foods cannot be replicated in a laboratory. There are yet many, many unidentified nutrients “within” nutrients which we have not identified. The most important substance in a vitamin C pill may not be the substance we have identified and labeled as vitamin C. Better to get our nutrients from a whole foods plant-based diet with just the right amount of nutrients nature intended for humans. This will eliminate missing out on any possible unidentified nutrients and their synergistic effects.

  3. Debbie says:

    Dear Mr. Hicks,
    I so totally agree with you and I tell my patient’s all the time that we should eat our vitamins not swallow pills. That being said, I know many of my patient’s will not adopt a plant based diet, but I do offer them Juice Plus which are is a whole food supplement and is the equivalent of 9-13 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Juice Plus is made from extracted Juice of vegetables and fruits and then dried into a powder and placed in Capsules. I still tell my patients I would rather they eat their vegetables but this is as close as they could get if they don’t. When taking Juice Plus no other vitamins are needed other than Vit D and B12 as well. I myself following a high Nutrient plant based diet and take Juice Plus for added protection and so I must be ingesting at least 20-22 servings a day of fruits and vegetables.

    • Linda201 says:

      “Extracted” fruits and vegetables are in no way comparable to the whole food versions. Are you a compensated spokesperson for “Juice Plus?”

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