I often find myself in the center of heated conversations at dinner parties among those who devote an entire drawer in their kitchen or bathroom to bottles and vials of multivitamins and other supplements. When we’re exposed daily to marketing ploys telling us to consume more antioxidants, vitamins, and other processed nutrients, it can be hard to ask the tough questions—especially when they go against everything we’ve been taught and led to believe.   Vitamins are organic compounds (i.e., they contain carbon) that team up with proteins in the body chiefly to create enzymes that work to regulate the body’s functionality. We cannot create enough of our requisite vitamins physiologically, but they are easy to obtain through diet. Most vitamin supplements on the market today are called multivitamins. Obviously, this means that they contain multiple vitamins, thirteen of which have been identified as needed by the body to function well: vitamin A, eight kinds of vitamin B (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12, folic acid, and biotin), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Virtually all multivitamins contain vitamins in doses that are several orders of magnitude larger than what you need to prevent any deficiency-related ailment. For example, thirty milligrams a day will prevent scurvy, which is what’s found in half of an orange. Some multivitamins, however, will stock a whopping thousand milligrams of vitamin C.   Americans are spending over $25 billion yearly on dietary supplements, so I can only imagine what the average annual expense is for someone who takes multivitamins and supplements regularly. Just as we haven’t had clinical vitamin D deficiency disease in this country for decades, characterized by bone ailments such as rickets and osteomalacia, we haven’t experienced any other types of vitamin-deficiency disease other than outlier cases that have unique circumstances or causes and that don’t reflect trends in the general population. Scurvy is extremely rare, and when it happens, it’s among patients who are elderly or alcoholic and who subsist on diets devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables.   I have no problem with people taking vitamins to correct a bona fide deficiency or to address certain conditions, such as pregnancy. Women contemplating pregnancy or who are already pregnant, especially in the early months, should speak with their doctor about taking a prescribed prenatal vitamin. Even though prenatal vitamins are available over the counter, I recommend the prescribed ones because they pass stricter quality controls so you know that you’re getting what’s on the label. But for the rest of us who aren’t in those unique circumstances, taking vitamins generically for health makes no sense. A vitamin is something that the body cannot synthesize, and we can get all the vitamins we need from the foods we eat, assuming that you make an effort to eat nutrient-dense foods from natural sources. More vitamins doesn’t mean better. Although the argument has been made for “topping off” our vitamin intake by supplementing with multivitamins—to help make up for any shortages due to a less-than-ideal diet—I cannot justify this as a rational approach. Michael Pollan stated it brilliantly when he wrote in his book In Defense of Food, “That anyone should need to write a book advising people to ‘eat food’ could be taken as a measure of our alienation and confusion.”   Indeed, Pollan nails it on the head. Why, in this age of plenty, do we need to rely on manufactured pills to get our vitamins and other nutrients? Why are we so out of touch with our own reality? One of the main reasons we are estranged from real meals today that are close to nature is because fast and processed foods abound. Another is we are led to believe that we will be healthier and feel better if we boost our intake of vitamins and nutrients through pills, powders, elixirs, juices, and the like. Antioxidant in particular has become a buzzword of the boomer generation, and antioxidant products, alongside other formulas such as resveratrol, which promise to reverse all the signs and symptoms of aging, are marketed today as though they represent the fountain of youth. Ironically, it is estimated that one-third of adults in high-income countries (which means that they have access to the best, most-nutrient-dense foods that money can buy) consume antioxidant supplements. But what, if anything, does taking antioxidant supplements really do?