05/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Vitamins: Eyeballing our Sacred Cows

Some things are not meant to be said in 140 characters or less...

So Friday, I shared a New York Times report via Twitter regarding some of the recent research on vitamins.

Specifically, I tweeted:
Crappy news for vitamins. New York Times

My very next tweet was:
Re: last tweet w/bad news about vitamins--serves as a good reminder that we should be using food not pills to get what we need.

Two basic tweets -- a very fired up response. Although many were positive, others vehemently disagreed and/or accused me of spreading misinformation.

The entire affair made me realize that some topics/viewpoints are too big for 140 characters or less.

To clarify:

I shared the New York Times article not because I think the information is Gospel or that the research is definitive but because it raised interesting questions about a few of our very closely held assumptions. And if there is one thing that's been M.I.A. in healthcare, it's been push back on the status quo.

I sent the second tweet because I consistently run into people (both personally and in my work as a consumer health advocate) who proudly rattle off the long list of vitamins and other supplements they take throughout the day all the while shoveling in a horrendous diet. They have been lulled into a false sense of security that the pills can make up for a lack of fruit, vegetables and other good choices.

Not only is this dangerous psychology, but the more we learn about nutrients, the more we realize how very little we know -- and how impossible it is to capture the complex miracles of nature in a bottle. The more we know, the more we realize that as much as possible, we should be turning to food -- real food (and preferably local and organic)--to best protect our health. We need to remember that vitamins, at their very best, should remain supplements, not replacements.

And we need to shout this information from the rooftops and not make another dangerous assumption...that the general public knows and understands this.

Bottom line, I am not against vitamins or supplementation. But I am for keeping them in perspective. I am for continuing to evaluate new data. I am for advocating better lifestyle choices versus more pills.

And if you are a maker or seller of vitamins or supplements, I encourage you to remember and advocate their proper place in health and wellness (which many of you admirably do). I encourage you not to get defensive when honest questions are raised. I encourage you not to become a "mini me" of the pharmaceutical industry...using marketing and hype and defense tactics to push more pills and profits over the true wellbeing of the people you are serving.

I appreciate the broad spectrum of comments that were sent -- the good and the bad. They pushed me to flesh out an important point. They pushed me to recognize the power of the tweet to communicate and mis-communicate. They pushed me to remember that we're all on the same team -- although we may haggle over approach, there's not one of us who doesn't want good health.

And I suddenly recalled Maya Angelou whispering in my ear during our recent interview, "We are more alike than we are unalike..." And that's why sometimes, it's more than worth the effort to reach out and explain.