Dr. Jacobs and co-author Linda Tapsell, of the University of Wollongong in Australia, published their research in the Journal of Nutrition Review.
According to Jacobs, “We are confusing ourselves and the public by
talking so much about nutrients when we should be talking about foods.
Consumers get the idea that diet and health can be understood in terms
of isolated nutrients. It’s not the best approach, and it might be
Oranges, for example, contain a healthy
amount of vitamin C. Some individuals are led to assume they can derive
the same benefit by taking a vitamin C pill. In fact, the juice, and
especially the whole orange, provides a complex variety of healthful
substances not derived from a simple tablet.
Dr. Jacobs also points out that many
studies examined the effect of isolated supplements of beta-carotene on
cardiovascular health and concluded there was no advantage. Other
investigations, however, looked at diets containing whole foods rich in
beta-carotene and found benefits. The same is true for several B
vitamin supplements and the natural foods containing these substances.
Linda Tapsell concludes, “It is this new
understanding that reminds us emphatically of the central position of
food in the nutrition-health interface, which begs for much more whole
food-based research, and encourages us in both research and dietary
advice to, ‘think food first’.”
The key to good nutrition is to eat a
variety of healthful foods with their naturally occurring nutrients.
The daily multivitamin and other supplements can be seen as an
insurance plan to compensate for our dietary deficiencies. The pills,
however, are not the same as the real stuff and should never be used as
a substitute for the bounty provided by nature.