Vorlesen Nutritionists warn - health in pill form is a fairytale. Vitamin pills, omega-3 fatty acids and other supplements are overrated. They do not protect against illness and old age, some of them are even dangerous. The World Health Organization warns. An example of frequently drawn conclusions: - A fish-rich diet protects against cardiovascular complaints and strokes. Fish contain many omega-3 fatty acids. - Omega-3 fatty acids are a component of nerve cells. Then the providers draw or suggest the following conclusion: - Omega-3 fatty acids protect against cardiovascular diseases and are good for the brain.

The conclusion sounds plausible, and many customers are convinced: In Japan, the fatty acids are marketed as brain food, the Germans buy them to protect their blood vessels. Turnover rose by 14 percent in 1997, according to the Institute for Medical Statistics (IMS) in Frankfurt. The fatty acids from the sea are among the newest and most successful agents in the market of "micronutrients".

The sale of vitamins, minerals and other supplements is booming. In the US, where daily pill swallowing is part of the lifestyle, annual sales doubled from 1990 to 1996 to $ 6.5 billion. German consumers are catching up. According to a study by the IMS, they swallow dietary supplement pills worth about two billion marks every year, adding about two percent or 40 million marks each year.

But even the simple consequences of the fish diet proved to be wrong. Daan Kromhout of the National Institute of Public Health (RIVM) of the Netherlands examined old men. The question: What keeps the elderly mentally fit longer - a fish-rich diet or pills with omega-3 fatty acids? The fish won, the pills failed. "We still do not know why fish have such a protective effect, " says Kromhout. "We simply do not know the effective substances yet. But the omega-3s alone are not. "Ad

Antioxidants are among the most popular research items of nutritionists. They found out: Not just beta-carotene and certain vitamins are effective radical scavengers. Wherever researchers look for plants they find highly effective antioxidants: lycopene in tomatoes, resveratrol in red wine, epigallocatechin gallate in green tea, and even the well-known caffeine in tea and coffee surprisingly contains a much better antioxidant than vitamin C. In addition, many come other agents such as the detoxifying sulforaphane in cabbage.

Plants seem to be full of substances that are good for the organism. Accordingly, they are good at preventing diseases: onions, apples and broccoli reduce the risk of developing cancer, garlic protects the heart and blood vessels. The food plants contain active ingredient cocktails that the pharmaceutical industry can only dream of.

If you look critically at the entire range of food supplements on the shelves of drugstores and supermarkets, according to the German Society of Nutrition (DGE), only two meaningful substances remain:

- Iodine: Germany is iodine deficient because of its soils. Although milk on the mineral feed for cows now contains a relatively large amount of iodine, the amount is not enough. Nevertheless, you do not have to swallow mineral pills to avoid a morbid enlargement of your thyroid gland (the "goitre"). Iodized table salt and regular sea fish like plaice or cod on a plate are quite enough.

- Folic acid for pregnant women: For them the content in normal diet is not enough. Folic acid has been shown to protect the unborn child from the "open back, " one of the most common malformations in babies. Folic acid should be taken as a single preparation and not as a multivitamin tablet. The vitamin A often contained therein increases the risk of malformations of the child. The risk makes the following comparison clear: Some vitamin A supplements contain 30, 000 to 50, 000 International Units (IU) of vitamin per capsule, but already with a daily intake of 25, 000 IU by the mother are malformations of the child - especially in the ears, eyes and Mouth - proven.

All other preparations should only be prescribed by the doctor for certain illnesses or deficiencies. Otherwise, the scientists recommend a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. These foods really protect you from cancer or cardiovascular disease. Alternately eaten with fish and meat, they contain all the vital nutrients. Nutritionists also have some good news: every household has food that can - given moderate doses - prolong life. It's good if you drink a glass of wine or beer with your healthy meal and round off the meal with a good cup of coffee. In the past, many researchers dismissed alcohol and caffeine as devils.

Today, they appreciate the rich drinks. Several major studies have proven that anyone who regularly drinks beer, wine or spirits regularly, lives longer. Alcohol "dilutes" the blood like aspirin, increases the amount of "good" HDL cholesterol and thus prevents vascular disease. And the coffee has the nutritionist Dr. Alessandra Tavani rehabilitated by the Pharmacological Research Institute Mario Negri in Milan. Anyone who drinks four cups of coffee a day, she has found out, does not get as easily colon cancer as the consistent caffeine despiser.

=== Thomas Willke

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