Watch out for dangerous half-truths on the internet

I marvel at what some of the “natural-know-it-alls” and “johnnie-come-lately” doctors put out on the internet. Some of their nutritional advice is so outdated, it reeks. And the websites don’t have the good sense to take it down, long after proven wrong. (If it was ever right.)

For example, many internet “expert” dieticians, doctors and nutritionists still give ominous warnings about how many eggs you can “get away with,” and advise against eating foods with dietary cholesterol and saturated fats. But when was the last time they looked at a medical journal or current edition textbook? Irrefutable evidence compiled over the past several decades shows dietary cholesterol does not affect cholesterol in the blood. And more recent studies show saturated fat is not the dietary “death trap” it has been made out to be.

I also recently read an article on the ‘net about “taking a multivitamin.” The author attempted to tell us what to do, and not to do, when it comes to taking dietary supplements and choosing a multivitamin formula. But the outright misinformation in the article outweighed all the decent information, so it left people with some really spotty advice.

“Half a truth is often a great lie”

The author actually began the article with some half-truths. She correctly presented the premise that most Americans, especially women, tend have low intake and levels of key micronutrients — like folic acid (true), vitamin D (true), iron (wrong), and calcium (half-right). And she recommended taking all of these nutrients in supplement form daily.

But as Benjamin Franklin said, “half a truth is often a great lie.” And that’s why half-truths are so dangerous when it comes to your health.

Yes, Americans, especially women, have low intakes and levels of folic acid and vitamin D. But pushing iron supplements is terrible advice. Excess iron increases your risk of cancer, heart disease, infections, and rarer “iron storage” diseases. The fact is, you should never take any supplement with iron, unless you have iron deficiency anemia diagnosed by your doctor. You can get enough iron from a healthy, balanced diet that includes fish and meats.

So, let’s move on to calcium…

Some nutrients you must get from foods

The author tells us to take calcium separately. This advice is half-right because the required daily dose of calcium is so large, it won’t fit into a single pill of any reasonable size.

But there is another, even more important reason you should never take calcium supplements. In supplement form, calcium levels may become dangerously high in the blood, leading to cardiovascular diseases and complications in other tissues.

The good news is, you can get all the calcium your body needs from a healthy balanced diet that includes dairy, eggs, fish, meat, and milk.

You don’t have the risk of developing excessively high calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia) when you get calcium in the natural food matrix.

So, despite what this author (and many others) may say, you should never take calcium or iron in supplement form. But what about multivitamins in general?

If something seems too good to be true, it usually is

The author correctly stated that most multivitamins are short on some vitamins and especially minerals, like chromium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. But you can’t just pack more and more into a multi. The key is to make sure the minerals are in bioavailable form.

What does that mean?

In Nature, there are inorganic forms of minerals found in rocks, soils, and crystals. And there are organic forms in plants and animals. If you don’t have organic forms of minerals in your supplement, it’s like trying to eat dirt to get your minerals.

Next, the author told readers to look for a single supplement with vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and folic acid. (You may run out of breath if you read that list out loud.)

Clearly, the author of this half-cocked article didn’t do her math before publishing this ridiculous recommendation.

It’s impossible to get all the right doses, in all the right forms, of all these minerals, micronutrients, and vitamins into a single supplement. It just doesn’t add up. And any formula that promises to give you all the nutrients you need in “one a day” is lying. Pure and simple.

Even if there were enough room in one pill for all of these nutrients in the appropriate doses (which there isn’t), do you really want to mix them all up in a single formula?

You should always take fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E mixed with healthy oil in a liquid or a gel cap, so the body can absorb and utilize them properly. But vitamins like the Bs and C are water-soluble. And, as the saying goes, oil and water don’t mix.

We’ll never be like George Jetson

Ironically, this article actually proved that a single pill can’t do it all. If the author bothered to read her own recommendations and literally “add up” her own conclusions, she would know this.

As I have always told you, it is virtually impossible to get optimal levels of all the micronutrients you need in any single, tiny, daily pill. It might have worked in George Jetson’s world, but in the real world, that view of human nutrition is just cartoonish.

Attempting to get the right doses of all these vitamins (let alone the minerals) in a single pill reminds me of when Groucho Marx played veterinarian Dr. Quackenbush and attempted to give a horse pill the size of a golf ball to the society doyenne Margaret Dumont at a health resort.

The article recommends searching for a vitamin with most of your daily needs. But if you keep searching for a single supplement that covers your daily requirements for optimal health, you’ll end up like John Wayne in The Searchers, looking endlessly for something that was never there in the first place.

Bottom line: Forget those ridiculous, overhyped, once-daily multivitamin pills. They compete on low price. But you don’t get what you pay for, no matter how cheap.


“Taking a daily multivitamin,” Everyday Health (