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I’ve had to take a break from social media. But it’s not for the reason you might suspect… The news about COVID-19 is everywhere and it can get overwhelming. I understand it increases a lot of people’s anxiety levels. But as a health researcher, I can’t cut myself off from these reports. So even though hearing about it constantly does cause me some anxiety as well, it’s another aspect of what’s going on right now that’s convinced me to steer clear of public debate forums (and yes, that’s what Facebook seems to have become) for a while.
What’s upsetting me? The negative attitude that many people have when they see a news report… or a story… or even just someone’s opinion about using vitamins and other forms of nutrition to boost their immune system against the common cold, the flu — or worse — COVID-19.
Attack of the ‘science trolls’
Just a few nights ago I read a post a friend shared on Facebook about vitamin C. But it could just as easily have been a post about vitamin D… or zinc. After all, these are nutrients that we’ve heard about all of our lives for promoting a healthy immune system.
If they weren’t beneficial to the human body, why did the U.S. Government institute recommended daily allowances (RDA) for them? If they are so readily available by simply eating whole foods, why are so many foods fortified with vitamins? And if we don’t have the freedom to supplement beyond the RDAs, why have scientists bothered to determine the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for these nutrients?
Well, the trolls came out of the woodwork to bash my friend for sharing what many implied was false information without a shred of evidence to back it up.
There were comments insulting my friend’s ethics and intelligence for implying that vitamins could cure COVID-19 — even though he did no such thing, nor did the author of the article he shared…
There were what I call “smarty pants” remarks saying things like, “show me the science”— even though the story he shared listed sources from prestigious medical journals that backed up the subject matter.
It was quite obvious these trolls had not even read the story he shared. They merely saw the word vitamin in the headline, and they were ready to attack.
How did we get here?
Nutrients are chemical compounds in food that are used by the body to function properly and maintain health. Examples include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: A dietary supplement is a product you take to supplement your diet. It contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins; minerals; herbs or other botanicals; amino acids; and other substances). Supplements do not have to go through the testing that drugs do for effectiveness and safety.
I’ll explain why in the next section, but let me interject here about the “safety” of drugs…
Related: Are supplements dangerous?
Don’t be fooled into thinking your medications are safe just because they are prescribed by a doctor or sold over the counter at your trusted pharmacy.
We’ve recently reminded our readers that last summer the FDA failed to recall Zantac, a drug that contained a known carcinogen — so potent that, in fact, it is used to induce cancer in lab rats.
Instead, the FDA and the manufacturers let that medicine sit and stew in warehouses, on store shelves, and in your own medicine cabinet — where later it was discovered that NDMA levels increased under normal storage conditions, and increased significantly in samples stored at higher temperatures, like what the product may be exposed to during distribution and handling by consumers. So, finally, almost a year later, they’re recommending you throw out these cancer-growing medications.
That example is just the tip of the iceberg on drug dangers.
Drug recalls hit the pharmaceutical industry hard, and do you know what else hits them hard?
When people take care of themselves and supplement the right nutrition they need to help ward off not only viruses but also diseases like type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease and yes, cancer.
How safe are your supplements?
“Science trolls” (I guess this name isn’t a perfect fit because these dummies aren’t reading the scientific reports about the efficacy of vitamins) would have us believe that vitamins and supplements are unregulated — only because pharmaceutical companies have done such a great job of convincing the media of that. I’m not anti-media but think back to the last nightly news report you saw on supplements and hearing someone interject that “they’re not regulated by the FDA.”
But contrary to what the anti-vitamin folks spout, the FDA does require specific safety information from a manufacturer intending to market a dietary supplement containing a new dietary ingredient.
They’ve looked closely at new ingredients since 1994 when the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was made law. What about before 1994? Per the FDA: Supplement ingredients sold in the United States before October 15, 1994, are not required to be reviewed by FDA for their safety before they are marketed because they are presumed to be safe based on their history of use by humans.
So, in other words, we’ve been taking vitamins C and D, among others, and minerals like zinc to help with colds and infections for a heck of a long time without incident.
And research — the same research that found an antifungal in a dirt sample on Easter Island that eventually became the life-saving drug Rapamycin — keeps discovering new ways plants and enzymes and other undiscovered substances can keep us healthy in the form of nutritional supplements.
The difference between you, me and the “science troll” on Facebook? When we take the supplement, we know it’s to boost our body’s natural defenses. Just like the post my friend shared… no one’s claiming vitamin C or D can cure COVID-19 or magically keep you from getting it or anything else.
But we have the common sense to know it won’t hurt and could help.