Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steroids Are What Vitamins Do When They Grow Up

Beautiful programming on the NYTimes where in the midst of the A-Rod Inquisition, they also have a nice update on how vitamins are kinda-sorta bullshit (don't even act surprised!). Did you know American adults spend $23 Billion a year on "dietary supplements" and don't really know if the products are having the intended effect? Quick, someone call ESPN and Peter Gammons for the interview!

This has been a premise in development for a little while now; vitamins are supposed to help prevent disease or extend life, and concrete proof of either is lacking. The study linked and cited in the beginning of the piece tracked 161,000 older women over eight-years with nothing to show for it. There are many more. Mainly because it's hard to scientifically prove anything as "definitely" true.

But I doubt anyone's too shocked, all the debunking falls in line with the perfectly intuitive notion that there is no "magic pill" that will extend our lives and rid of us disease. We dream of this being possible, but anyone who's dealt with health problems knows the bottom line is some things work on some people, other things don't. Everything has context; vitamins might help sprinkle a little iron in the mix if your otherwise healthy diet skews away from the mineral, but if you're only eating cheese doodles they can't help with the yellow-orange fingertips or expanding waistline etc.

Of course the nebulous root of the vitamin problem, is the same muddy dilemma facing baseball, A-Rod and steroids. In the context of living a life where one eats healthy, works out, and does the things to maintain their body in top form, how does one discern what is the product of a healthy lifestyle and what is a product of taking vitamins/performance enhancers?

The lack of clear answers to this exposes the hypocrisy in the A-Rod lynching. We're all being a little naive, "young and stupid" (especially the wise elders who take the most vits) by ingesting and investing ($23B/year can buy you a lot of A-Rods) in products that we really have no definite proof/evidence/understanding of what it does.

The funny thing, then, in the case of vitamins, is the one thing we do know is they're not doing as much as we'd like them to do for the money we're spending. So maybe anyone who's really angry at A-Rod is only pissed because his multi-vitamins work better.

image: no vits, magic pills


  1. geerussell2/18/2009

    Just as with recreational drugs, not every banned substance or performance enhancer can be treated the same.

    Smoking a little weed might make you lazy, smoking a little crack might have you in your mama's kitchen doing the gator dance.

    Some performance enhancers are relatively harmless to your health and just give you an edge in competition--garden variety cheating. Some performance enhancers are black-market cocktails of powerful drugs and hormones that will leave your body somewhere between train-wreck and dead by the time you're middle aged.

    By that logic, I claim I'm not a hypocrite if I smoke a little weed and tell you to say no to crack. Or if I pop a one-a-day and say you shouldn't be doing the cream, the clear or the needle.

  2. awesome post. I still take my vitamins every day and just hope it all works out for the best.

  3. That "perfection" pill looks mighty tasty.


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