Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Investing in your health

A report in the New York Times shows that sales of vitamins have been going up whilst the economy has been going down. Sales nationally in the USA were up 8% in the last quarter of 2008 compared to 2007.

Different reasons are given to explain this. One theory is that people are buying supplements instead of going to the doctors. According to an economics professor at Princeton, Uwe Reinhardt people are initially trying to “tough it out” rather than go to a doctor. There is also the view that people are concerned about costs of medical care in the USA and particularly their inability to control costs once in the system.

As usual this trend is knocked by doctors. Indeed in February a study was published in the Archives of Internal medicine which claimed no benefit to post menopausal women in taking multi vitamins. It apparently didn’t stop them dying.

Yet the sales figures show that people do benefit. As the old saying goes you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. If there was no benefit to people in taking supplements eventually they would stop. Consumption would certainly not increase and even less so at a time when using your dollars wisely is so important.

Taking supplements does not mean you will live forever. It does not guarantee that you will never get any form of disease. It is about putting the right fuels into your body. This is why there is no absolute one size fits all. Whilst fish oils and multi vitamins are the biggest sellers many people have their own favourites which work for them. Furthermore the body may have different needs at different times.

It is also important to use a good quality supplement.

Professor Reinhardt also described a move to “consumer directed healthcare” which is essentially people taking more preventative measures (especially if insurance premiums or other disease related costs rise.) This is criticised as leading to delay in treatment.

This misses the main point. If you have just had a heart attack, then no vitamin is immediately going to fix it. The role of supplements, healthy eating, regular exercise and the other pillars of health make it less likely you will get disease and hence less likely you will need treatment. This is about reducing the requirement not delaying what may be required.

The best way not to get sick is in fact to be healthy. Consumer directed healthcare is all about you taking control of your own health. DIY health is about you being able to have the knowledge base and empowerment to take action.




  1. Superstitious snakeoil. At the end of the day, all properly randomised double-blind trials clearly show that taking vitamins is a pointless waste of time and money that has no positive health outcomes.

  2. Thanks for your input. The results of trials reflect the questions asked ,the design and the interpretaion of the statistics.Ask different questions you get different answers

  3. http://bit.ly/1Dh48i this link(from the Wall Street Journal) shows that we cant put our faith in everything that is "trialed"