The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements

Nutrition experts contend that all we need is what's typically found in a routine diet. Industry representatives, backed by a fascinating history, argue that foods don't contain enough, and we need supplements. Fortunately, many excellent studies have now resolved the issue.
On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota evaluated 39,000 older women and found that those who took supplemental multivitamins, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron died at rates higher than those who didn't. They concluded, "Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements." 
Two days later, on October 12, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic published the results of a study of 36,000 men who took vitamin E, selenium, both, or neither. They found that those receiving vitamin E had a 17 percent greater risk of prostate cancer. In response to the study, Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said, "The concept of multivitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits. There was never any scientific data supporting their usage." On October 25, a headline in the Wall Street Journal asked, "Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?" Studies haven't hurt sales. In 2010, the vitamin industry grossed $28 billion, up 4.4 percent from the year before. "The thing to do with [these reports] is just ride them out," said Joseph Fortunato, chief executive of General Nutrition Centers."We see no impact on our business." 
-- "The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements," Paul Offit for The Atlantic 07/19/2013
I only spent a year and a half working in a medical setting, but it was terrifying to see how much of a business healthcare has become. I met people like those in the article convinced that the right combination of supplements would take away their cancer, their blood disease, their mental disorders. And I met people who touted these magic ideas to turn a profit.

I have a hard time believing that the earth does not provide everything that we as humans need to survive, that for some reason we need to fill ourselves with synthetics to function properly.


  1. I read this article today! It made me feel less guilty about forgetting to take vitamins for all these years... Also, I can't believe somebody smart enough to win 2 Nobel prizes was making such crazy claims.


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