Please Don’t Fortify Me (or My Food)

October 21, 2011 in Foodland, Health, Nutrition, Nutritionism by Mary Ireland

A recent study reported by the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Minnesota finds that multivitamin use is associated with a 2.4 per cent increased risk of earlier death in older women. Results of the study, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, pointed to vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper as supplements associated with increased risk of death in the study population. Researchers noted that contrary to findings from other studies, calcium is associated with a decreased risk.

Back before I was enlightened, I took a multivitamin each day. I thought this would be good insurance against any dietary deficiencies that I might have. During that time, I primarily ate a vegetarian diet: my main concern was that I was missing some nutrients by not eating meat. Then, I started reading research on increased cases of lung cancer of smokers associated with preformed A supplementation. Just a few facts about vitamin A:

  • Preformed vitamin A comes from animal sources such as liver, whole milk and some fortified foods such as cereals.
  • Provitamin A carotenoid is found in colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • The body converts provitamin A carotenoid into vitamin A, as needed. The studies have found no adverse effect from carotenoids.

I didn't know if previous second-hand smoke exposure put me in the "smoker" category, but as the child of smokers and having lived most of my life in a culture of smokers, I didn't want to take any chances. I looked for multivitamins without preformed vitamin A, but really couldn't find any. So I gave up on multivitamins. Just as well; in addition to the latest multivitamin findings, studies have also associated too much preformed vitamin A with osteoporosis.

But even if you don't take a multivitamin or any type of supplements, you may get more supplemented vitamins that you care to and/or that is good for you. It seems that food processors, in an attempt to sell their products as healthy are adding vitamins and minerals to the less that nutritious foods they are creating. So instead of having a product with no nutritional value (loaded with fat, salt and empty calories) that increases your chances of getting diabetes, cancer or some other life threatening condition, food processors are putting in ingredients that further increase your chances of getting cancer or some other life threatening condition. I can avoid those, but what is worse is that products with nutritional value, such as milk and other dairy products that I want to consume are fortified too.

I have adopted a four-pronged approach:

  • I stay away from processed foods.
  • When cooking or baking, I start with the "raw" ingredients so that I know exactly what is going into my meal or snack.
  • I follow an "eat simply" regime - where the food that I eat is recognizable in its natural form.
  • I choose wisely. When I look at the ingredients of a product, I only choose those with short, recognizable ingredients.

It would be nice if we could depend on food processors or the USDA/FDA to make sure that the food that we eat is healthy; however, at this point in time, it seems as if you are totally on your own for ensuring the quality of the food you eat. It is up to you to accept and act on that responsibility.

For more information about the dangers of supplementation, see Dr. Grandma's blog, Fighting Cancer -- One Plateful at a Time.