Delicious Living Blog

The psychology of popping vitamins

New research on multivitamins and behavior suggests that, whatever vitamins’ direct effects on health, they also potentially negatively affect user behavior.

Fill in the blank: Multivitamins are __________________

A. a good way to make up for nutrients that may be lacking in your diet
B. an unnecessary waste of money, but harmless
C. a risk to your health

My personal answer is A, but for some the truth may be closer to C. New research on multivitamins and behavior suggests that, whatever vitamins’ direct effects on health, they also potentially negatively affect user behavior.

Reported in Psychological Science, the study tracked 82 people taking placebo vitamins. Half of the participants were told that the vitamins were placebos; the other half reported greater leaning toward unhealthy behaviors, such as binge drinking and shunning exercise. When asked to choose between a buffet and a healthful meal, those who believed they were taking vitamins showed a greater inclination toward the buffet.

I know what you’re thinking: Well, I’m smarter than those people!  That was my first reaction, too. But when I take an honest look, I’m not invulnerable to that kind of thinking. Case in point: When I finish a 3-hour mountain bike ride, I’ll guiltlessly indulge in beer and French fries. After all, I’ve earned them! Or take my reliance on the 300-plus days of Colorado sunshine for vitamin D. Turns out my levels are a bit low and I do need supplements.

Why is the single-solution, cure-all myth so hard to dispel? Blame it on marketing or on plain old laziness and human nature, but the fact remains that placing so much faith in vitamins—or any single healthy behavior—simply isn’t healthy.

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