Vitamin S: For Suckers

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It s a message that we at ACSH have been touting for years. Yet, largely because of slick marketing, consumer ignorance and some terrible, self-serving legislation, the message is ignored.

Perhaps it will now be heard.

Vaccine champion and infectious disease expert (also ACSH trustee) Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children s Hospital of Philadelphia, wrote a scathing (but dead-on) opinion piece in Sunday s New York Times, where he excoriated the practices of the supplement and vitamin industry and their consequences. Much of the piece was based on information in his recently-published book Do You Believe in Magic?

His op-ed, Don t Take Your Vitamins, pulls no punches.

He writes, Most people assume that, at the very least, excess vitamins can t do any harm. It turns out, however, that scientists have known for years that large quantities of supplemental vitamins can be quite harmful indeed.

Dr. Offit cites numerous large studies showing clearly how large doses of several vitamins actually caused harm to those ingesting them. Worse still, very few Americans need to take any supplemental vitamins, as we get enough in our diets.

ACSH friend, Dr. David Seres, the Director of Medical Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center, who has written frequently about this issue is in complete agreement:

He says, The voice of reason. Dr. Offit very clearly lays out the real data when it comes to vitamin supplementation, and the dangers inherent when the impact of biologically active substances is not tested in randomized trials, and/or when recommendations are made solely based on observation ¦[I]n addition to the megavitamin act in 1976, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 completely gutted any regulation of any substance labeled as a dietary supplement. This means that there are hormones and other biochemically and pharmacologically active substances being sold without regulation or information to the consumer, other than the manufacturer s often misleading claims (which, of course, must be followed by the disclaimer, These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA, in fine print). A study some years ago in Denver, Colorado, showed that fully 50% of patients undergoing planned surgery in the Denver area were taking supplements that have the potential to delay blood clotting. Caveat emptor.

You can read Dr. Offit s editorial in its entiretyhere; his book also discusses the insidious effects of the DSHEA measure.