Mythbusting: Vitamins

Be Strong

THAT MASSIVE MULTIVITAMIN you've been choking down may have all the nutritional value of Pez. The FDA doesn't test claims made by vitamin manufacturers, so we turned to William Hart, professor of nutrition and dietetics at Oklahoma's Rogers State university, to find out whether your daily horse pill supplements your diet-or just pumps up your grocery bill.

MYTH: Taking a daily multi-vitamin means you can skip the mustard greens.

ORIGIN: There's a canon of scientific studies that links diets rich in vitamins and minerals to good health. "But we make an illogical jump when we start thinking that we can take just the nutrients, not the foods, and get the same benefits," says Hart. TRUTH: "Multivitamins are mostly harmless, but they don't have any real benefits, either," says Hart. "If you're eating a balanced diet, you're already getting all the vitamins you need." SOLUTION: Hart says to skip the daily dose and forget the recommended daily values. Instead, cram your cakehole with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains-and keep tabs on those calories.

MYTH: Vitamin E does it all.ORIGIN: This powerful antioxidant is credited with everything from boosting cardiovascular health to reversing the aging process-but so far, its only proven benefit is preventing cancer-causing free radicals from damaging cells...which is a big deal.TRUTH: "We know vitamin E is essential for good health," says Hart. "The question is: If you're getting enough in your diet, does it help to have more? I've yet to see any conclusive evidence that says so."SOLUTION: Eat one serving of leafy green vegetables every day and you'll be covered. Almonds and walnuts are also loaded with vitamin E, but beware their fat content.

MYTH: Megadoses of vitamin C help you exercise harder, longer.

ORIGIN: Recent research links the antioxidant to increased lung capacity and cardiovascular output.TRUTH: A Colorado State University study found no significant performance boost in vitamin C users.SOLUTION: If you want more energy while pumping iron, think about when-more than what-you eat. "It's best to eat two or three hours before working out, since strenuous exercise suppresses your ability to process food into energy," says Hart.