The case that got me thinking about individual experience and the need for some “self-experimentation” – see my post on The N = 1 of Life Advice – came almost literally from a case… From samples of Pure Encapsulation’s Daily Immune (Immune Active, as it’s called in Europe) supplement, that is.
Supplements in the form of multivitamins had, not that long ago, been the subject of a scientific analysis regarding their efficacy. The result: It’s all a waste of money.
For most people with an averagely healthy diet – or let’s make that an averagely diverse diet, because there probably isn’t much of a need for what most people would consider especially and particularly healthy foods, either – multivitamins are probably unnecessary.
Share that insight, though, and you are more than likely to be met with a lot of resistance.
Who eats a healthy diet nowadays?! Surely a little bit of an insurance against deficiencies is not a bad thing?! Can’t they just leave us feeling better for just a little money?!
These, certainly, were the kinds of comments I encountered when I shared that research.
I myself am a person who hardly ever takes even an aspirin, so I’d tend to concur.
Then I went to a Foodblogger camp, and I heard people react in the usual way foodies do when there were those ‘pills’ there. The opinion I overheard was a “What do those drug-pushers think; as if you’d need such artificial supplementation when you can just eat a diverse diet!”
The supplement sample was interesting, though.
There are some extracts of supposedly helpful plants in it, including some I had or have been growing myself such as Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus, Wu-jia-pi), which is supposed to have adaptogenic/tonic properties.
There is Vitamin D, which my sports doctor highly recommended I should supplement (having checked my levels of it).
There was the zinc often enough lauded as helpful for the immune system.
As these things go – read my article on the n=1 of life advice and go on learning about science from there – I can’t say that anything I experienced has to hold true for anybody else.
I can’t even be certain, given that I’m only one person and I’ve only had one winter’s experience, that my own experience will hold true even a second winter.
But, I can say that I used that Daily Immune / Immune Active supplement throughout the winter, and it was the first winter that I never caught a cold. My wife did, and the winters before, we always managed to infect each other.
Not this winter, a.k.a. flu season.
This is definitely not medical advice, nor even anything more than one person’s anecdotal experience of one single winter – but it’s enough that I think supplements (and diets) may be some of the best cases for the n=1 argument:
Assume that what holds true for the average holds true for you and be critical – but also check (in all things medical, with your doctor) if maybe something not-average will be the case with you.
If you want to try out Pure Encapsulations, have a look at their range of products e.g. at Pharmaca – and yes, this is an affiliate link; nothing was sponsored unless you count the samples I got from them, though. In fact, at the moment, you can’t even get the same Daily Immune / Immune Active I used at that link.