When I was in active practice I would get asked this a lot.
"I really don't like eating fruits and vegetables. Can't I just take a pill?"
This short cut to better health is tempting but little research exists to support it. Vitamin D is a great case in point. Deficiencies of this important vitamin have been linked to everything from osteoporosis to heart disease and poor vision. It is known for example that people with low Vitamin D levels have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. Yet to date there has not been a conclusive study showing that if you give patients with low Vitamin D levels supplements in pill form, it decreases their chances of heart disease compared to others with low levels that did not take the pills.
It is well established that the Mediterranean diet that is high in fruits and vegetables significantly lowers the rates of heart disease and stroke. However taking vitamin supplements as an alternative does not confer the same protection.
Added to this as yet unresolved question is the whole issue of which vitamin supplements to take and in what dose. The vitamin and supplement industry is an unregulated frontier with many false and misleading claims. I have some insights into this but will address it in a future blog.
Sunshine is correlated with higher Vitamin D levels. And indeed more strokes and heart attacks occur during the winter than summer and further one lives from the equator. Because my Vitamin D level is low despite spending much time in the Florida sun, (sunscreen blocks the process where our bodies make Vitamin D via the skin after sun exposure), I take a Vitamin D supplement anyway. But I do so with the knowledge that I still need to eat plenty of healthy foods, that is fresh fruits and vegetables.
Thus, the answer to the question is no, you can't just take a pill instead. Sorry.