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Take Your Vitamins. If You Must.

Take Your Vitamins. If You Must.

I don’t want to sound like a whiner. But as a kid, I was unloved.

Every time I went to my best friend's house, I was reminded of this tragic fact. There, in the center of her family's kitchen table, was the symbol of her mother's affection and my mother's indifference: a statuesque, see-through bottle of reddish pills.

One A Day multiple vitamins.

How I longed to swallow one of those magical orbs and glow with good health.

Not only did my mom stubbornly refuse to buy vitamins for our family, she forbade me to take them at the house that overflowed with love and vitamins.

"You don't know what's in those things," my mother would say, pouring a cup of coffee and lighting another Pall Mall. "They can't be good for you."

She lumped vitamin-takers in the same pathetic category as people who were "always running to the doctor." They were self-absorbed hypochondriacs, nothing more.

Eat right and you don't need pills, she said.

But we weren't eating right. This was the 1960s, when the American diet consisted of three main foods: ground beef, canned spinach and pudding. We were barely getting enough nutrients to grow our hair.

Still, there were no One A Days - or Flintstones - allowed in our house.

After college, I rebelled. I flirted with health foods and stocked my apartment with organic supplements, just to annoy my mother. She looked at my shelves and rolled her eyes.

"Go ahead," she shrugged. "Waste your money."

Eventually I learned that vitamin-taking, like tooth-brushing, was a habit that had to be learned in childhood. When I found myself flushing my expensive, expired pills down the toilet, I gave up.

That may have been a good thing.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report a few years ago that said many antioxidant vitamins don't contribute to a long life at all.

In fact, too many could kill you.

Harvard researchers recently released a study of 30,000 subjects and found that not only do supplements do nothing to lengthen life, but too much calcium is associated with higher rates of cancer.

Somewhere, my mother is sipping a cup of cosmic coffee and smirking.

I don't know if these reports are true. I do know they’re startling.

In a piece headlined, “Is There Really Any Benefit to Multivitamins?” Johns Hopkins researchers also recently concluded that no, there isn’t.

These scientific studies are refuted, of course, by indignant supplement makers. Unsurprising, when you consider this is a $12 billion a year industry.

Look for more studies and different conclusions that will only add to the confusion of vitamin devotees.

Me? I'm just feeling the love.

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