Monday, February 9, 2009

Dietary Supplements

To preface this entry, a new study came out disclaiming the medical benefits of taking multivitamins, adding to the message from the November studies disclaiming the benefits of Vitamin C and Vitamin E. I have never been a big fan of dietary supplements, in fact I wrote a paper explaining why the industry is so unregulated and able to make such fantastic health claims, but many people are self-medicating with vitamins, minerals, etc. This is one of my favorite clips summing up my view on the subject:

Yes, indeed, they really are no better than placebos. Unless a person has an actual vitamin deficiency, there is no real reason to take dietary supplements. You may think you are taking steps to prevent cancer by popping that Vitamin C every day, or that your memory will improve by downing Gingko Biloba, but the odds are good that you're just producing expensive urine. As a side note, make sure you're not also taking birth control pills, since Gingko Biloba affects liver enzyme activity and you may end up getting pregnant or extremely hormonal. I am very glad that these decade-long studies are finally coming to their conclusion and proving that there are no long-term health benefits to taking dietary supplements. Maybe the hubbub will die down by the time I am practicing, and I won't have to listen to a speech by a patient enlightened by Wikipedia about the benefits of taking Selenium or Echinacea each day.


  1. Well played.

    While there can be some health benefits to alternative/holistic medicine.. The "health" industry is widely unregulated. Also, people are widely uninformed (other than by commercials) when they decide to self-medicate. It makes me wince.

    I think that in the Americas, there really is no need to take all the vitamin/mineral supplements that people are taking. I think that people should focus, instead, on taking in a well-balanced diet that includes a lot of variety.

    And I'm not even going to start in on amino-acid supplements. >.<

    However, I think that with the current fad-dieting trends, I believe that women would do well to take calcium and iron supplements (though, not daily and not at the same time, I think they interfere with each other).

  2. I agree with you on the iron and calcium, as well as folate for pregnant women. The FDA backs us up too, as those are the only vitamins and minerals they actually allow to make claims about efficacy in treating or preventing disease :)