The big health news today seems to be that taking a multivitamin will help geezers like me avoid dying of cancer — or not.
The study earning big headlines followed nearly 15,000 men for 14 years and found that those who took a daily multivitamin “modestly, but significantly, reduced the risk of total cancer.” This should be heartening to anyone hoping to dodge the big C as they coast into their golden years, but when you look more closely at the study’s results you’ll notice that washing down a multivitamin every morning with your orange juice didn’t actually have much of an effect on the incidence of prostate cancer, colorectal cancer or other “site-specific” cancers. Last time I looked, those were pretty much the most deadly cancers guys my age tend to face.
And even if the study showed that my daily multivitamin might have a more positive effect, I’m not the sort to pay much attention. I’ve got nothing against multivitamins; I take one every morning along with a little fish oil. What bugs me is this notion that doing any one thing — whether it’s eating certain foods or taking certain supplements or relying on the latest pharmaceutical miracle — is going to protect you from an untimely illness and an early death.
I suppose we’d all like some sort of tool or technique that would guarantee us good health, but that way of thinking is what has pushed conventional medicine into the awkward position it now finds itself. Everybody wants their doctor or surgeon or pharmacist to “fix” what’s wrong with them — to make them healthy. But to my way of thinking, it’s really up to us. And it shouldn’t be that complicated: Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, keep an upbeat attitude, cultivate community, and you ought to roll into your twilight years in pretty good shape.
We shouldn’t need any studies to get us moving in that direction, should we?