Just believe them and all is well. No matter how much reliable science you throw at them, you can't penetrate the world and logic of nutritionists."See, It Works!"A man was standing in a street, holding up a stick. Another walked by and asked, "why are you holding up that stick?""It's an anti-tiger stick.""But there aren't any tigers here!""See, it works!"I don't remember where I first read that, but it's the basic approach nutritionists in particular and the supplement industry in general take toward evidence: it's not up to me to prove my whacky theory right, it's up to you to prove that it's wrong.Science Don't Prove They Don't Work!Freshest case in point are the good people of the Linus Pauling Institute.Linus Pauling? Yes, the Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, who later advocated that vitamin C can cure cancer.Nutritionists at the institute named after him recently took objection about an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine, one of the most important medical science journals out there.That article summarized tons of reliable research that showed nutritional supplements either did nothing or were actually harmful.It had the Pauling Institute people nearly spit out their 5,000 IU vitamin C capsules.Science? Who Needs Science?Balz Frei, its director, sent Annals a response (also published on the Pauling Institute's website):
More than 93% of US adults 19 years and older do not meet dietary intake recommendations (called Estimated Average Requirement, or EAR) of vitamins D and E, 61% for magnesium, about 50% for vitamin A and calcium, and 43% for vitamin C (2). Other studies have shown that people who take a daily multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplement with the recommended doses of most vitamins and minerals can fill most of these nutritional gaps safely and at very low cost [...].In case you missed it: he says that people using supplements filled their "nutritional gaps," he just can't prove it did them any good. Not that that would be his job:
There are many issues that have helped to mislead people when it comes to the study of micronutrients. For instance, most research is done without first checking to see if a person is inadequate in a nutrient, and you won't find much effect from a supplement if it isn't needed. Whatever has been shown to be useful in such research probably would be even more effective in people who have poor diets or clear nutritional inadequacies.Let me translate that: "ha, science can't prove me wrong!" It gives me visions of Dr. Frankenstein jolting another 20,000 volts through a corpse and when it fails to move, claiming "it was just the wrong corpse!"For someone boasting a M.S. and Ph.D. in biochemistry and who was an assistant professor at the renowned Harvard School of Public Health that is a peculiar position to take.Pills Aren't Substitutes, Professor Frei!Remember when I wrote about what healthy nutrition is and explained that the dozen or so vitamins in a multivitamin are just a fraction of the physiologically active substances in the average apple, that has 2,000 of them? That the vitamins work best in tandem with the other 1,988?That's something nutritionists and vitamin pill peddlers can't wrap their heads around or choose to ignore: you can't make up for bad nutrition through popping a pill.Picture courtesy of Steven Depolo.