Is pill phobia preventing healthy choices?

iStock_000007249941_LargeI was scanning through the latest health news the other day when one particular headline stopped me in my tracks. It said “1 in 3 people ‘would prefer shorter life’ to taking a pill every day,” Believe it or not, it wasn’t a joke (like when I say “I’d rather die than wear Crocs”).

Researchers surveyed 1,000 people with an average age of 50. Some of them were already taking daily medications. Others weren’t. But about one in three people said they’d rather die earlier than take a pill every day to prevent cardiovascular disease. Even if that “magic pill” was free. And even if it didn’t have any side effects.

In fact, 59 percent of those surveyed were willing to pay an average of $1,400 to avoid taking a pill every day.

The most common reason people gave for not wanting to take the hypothetical pill? They feared it would have a negative effect on their quality of life.

What boggles my mind most about this revelation is that roughly 28 percent of people in the US over the age of 40 take statin drugs every single day. Often under the guise of preventing heart disease—a myth born and bred in the “hallowed halls” of mainstream medicine. Yet statins certainly aren’t free…and I can’t think of another drug that has a worse impact on quality of life.

But people would rather subject themselves to the side effects of statins than take a SAFE pill—like, say, fish oil, or a B-complex—that can prevent heart disease.

And, call me cynical, but I have a sinking suspicion that the same people who say they’d rather pay $1,400 than take a pill every day are some of the very same people who complain that organic produce and grass-fed, free range meats are “too expensive.”

The attitude towards health and nutrition in this country is disturbingly contradictory. But, to some extent, I get it. No one wants to choke down dozens of pills every day.

The thing is, if you want to avoid pills, your best bet is to focus on making your diet as wholesome and nutritious as possible. Again, that means cutting refined sugar and processed, packaged foods. And making it a top priority to seek out local, organic meat and produce.

Physical activity is also an absolute must if you want to avoid a medicine cabinet full of prescription bottles.

Yes, I do recommend nutritional supplements. Which usually means taking a few pills each day. But if your diet is truly healthy and you’re getting plenty of physical activity, you’ll need far fewer supplements than you would otherwise. (And for the truly pill-averse, there are some great, high-quality supplement formulas available as drink mixes. Multivitamins and superfood formulas are especially good options to look for as drink mixes.)

But I promise you that taking a few supplements each day is far less of a burden than it might seem. In fact, far from negatively impacting your quality of life, a few well-chosen supplements will do wonders to improve it.

I can’t tell you how many great letters I get from readers telling me how much better they feel and how much their health has improved since they’ve begun following these very protocols. Not to mention how many fewer drugs they’re now taking.

The bottom line here is that we’d all do well to focus more on making healthy choices, and less on the specific delivery method. Pills aren’t ALL bad…some of them provide essential nutrients you might not get enough of otherwise. But a healthy diet (and exercise!) should always be your first step towards staying healthy and avoiding disease.


“1 in 3 people ‘would prefer shorter life’ to taking a pill every day,” Medical News Today, 2/4/15

“Quantifying the utility of taking pills for cardiovascular prevention.” Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes, epub ahead of print 2/3/14

“Number of Americans Taking Statins Keeps Rising: CDC,” MedlinePlus, 12/23/14