In the News – Are We Taking Too Many Vitamins?

Snippet from the article:

Dr. Paul Offit doesn’t take any vitamins. In fact, while you might think that vitamins are great in any quantity, Offit urges you to take a step back and think before swallowing the equivalent of eight cantaloupes in a single dose.

“I think that alternative medicine is often given a free pass,” he told CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “I think we should hold alternative medicine to the same standard that we hold conventional medicine. It lives under this sort of untouchable halo. I think we should be a little more skeptical.”

Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is no stranger to controversy — previously he has taken on the anti-vaccine movement. His book “Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine,” came out Tuesday.

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Read the rest — Vitamins: Too much of a not-so-good thing?

Vitamins and supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry, and this doctor warns that many of us are taking them in excess, ignoring or perhaps not knowing the possible health risks they may pose. These supplements are unregulated by the FDA, and as we see with the countless bogus herbal “cures” for hair loss, most of what people are buying into is marketing hype.

Tags: vitamins, supplements, opinion

4 thoughts on “In the News – Are We Taking Too Many Vitamins?

  1. Vitamin and herbal supplements are increasingly regulated by the FDA however. Advertising claims are quite strictly enforced these days if complaints are received.

    It’s a difficult area this as we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Some herbal supplements offer effective treatments for minor ailments at a low cost – which is why the pharmaceutical industry wants to discredit and absorb it. On the other hand a lot of products are scams or even dangerous. The difficulty is in regulating what we have access to without effectively banning ‘food’. My worry with stories like this is we know omega 3 oils have benefits for the heart and brain – our diets are severely lacking in these. Pharmaceutical giants can’t patent a purely natural product and so several have spent a while devising synthetic analogues of omega 3 as drugs. But the cost to patients is massive. If we removed omega 3 supplements and only allowed expensive prescribed medicines we have a major problem.

    My compromise would be to regulate the manufacture of vitamin and herbal supplements for quality and allow companies to advertise studies performed with that natural product but crack down on scam ‘health claims’ which cannot be proven. Currently however the FDA basically says that if you prove a herbal supplement acts as a medicine you must patent it and apply for a medicinal licensing – effectively putting it back into the hands of a pharmaceutical company.

    The natural health industry is a mess but its only a tiny fraction of the turnover of pharmaceuticals – many of which turn out to be responsible for more deaths than vitamins.

  2. Actually the FDA has extremely limited oversight over herbal substances unless rare situations where deaths (deaths from Chinese ephedra during the last decade in high school students) require urgent intervention. The FDA has no oversight into quality control of manufacturing, safety, or efficacy as a result of herbal industry lobbying. Case in point: the “benefits” that Paul describes for omega-3 has been debunked in multiple randomized controlled trials,.,….yet the claims of these benefits can be made without FDA sanction. Before you bash biopharma, realize that at least you know what you’re putting in your mouth when you take a drug (and have some idea of the risks).

  3. Thanks for the response I’d be interested to see these debunked omega 3 studies – that would be interesting given the biopharma investment in producing drugs based on omega 3 then?

    I’d investigate the FDA’s recent actions against supplement producers. The enforcement actions have increased following a lot of congressional interest. Although I did actually suggest FDA authority over quality control which you seem to have ignored in your response.

  4. This “supplements are unregulated” mantra is simply false. Sure, you could buy useless unregulated junk from scam Internet sites, but what you buy from reputable sources will conform to cGMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), which the FDA does oversee and regulate. The FDA also regulates the health claims which can be made. If the writer means there is no need to do clinical trials to prove effectiveness, in this sense yes they are unregulated. It’s a buyer beware situation, but considering the greedy high jinx played by Big Pharma it’s unfair to tar the whole supplement industry as quacks and frauds.

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