Do daily vitamins keep us healthy? Are they able to prevent disease, boost life expectancy, or treat common illnesses? Americans spend about $7 billion per year on “daily” multi-vitamin supplements, the kind that have been around for decades and are household names all over the world.
New research is shedding light on the traditional vitamin industry by saying that those many billions of dollars are being misspent. Not that daily vitamin pills are dangerous (in most cases), just that they have no measurable effect on the health status of the average person.
A highly respected medical journal, The Annals of Internal Medicine, recently reported on a mega-study that clearly demonstrated the inability of daily vitamins to enhance memory, aid heart health, extend life or do anything of clinical significance for those who take them.
The only good news to come out of the research is that most daily doses of vitamins don’t do any real harm, unless they contain “mega-doses” of certain substances.
The old argument for vitamin pills was that they “filled gaps” in a person’s diet and in any case were good for promoting overall bodily health. Neither of those claims can now be said to be true. In fact, many of the best selling daily vitamin brands contain extremely high doses of vitamin B and iron, which can cause serious problems for certain people.
In fact, all claims about “improved brain health” and memory boosting were shown to be completely unfounded. Perhaps the biggest downside to the vitamin habit, according to researchers, is wasted money.
Vitamins are expensive and getting pricier, while commercial claims about prevention of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and seasonal illnesses are still being printed in bold letters on containers.
Some say the saddest part of the vitamin market is that it sells false hope and drains money from people who can least afford to lose it. Consumers who have scant access to quality health care often view daily vitamins as a form of low-cost health insurance. The new study suggests the pills a waste of financial resources and are worthless as health insurance.
One encouraging note is the increase in high-quality nutritional supplements, many of which are scientifically tested before reaching store shelves. Indeed, the newer, upscale supplements are careful to have reams of medical research behind their effectiveness before going to market.
Toxicity is a problem cited by many researchers who feel that daily vitamins are not just a waste of time and money, but also have the potential for danger. Supplements that are high in vitamins A, C and D can be especially problematic. A and D are fat-soluble and have a tendency to build up to dangerous levels with the “mega-dose” pills, while super-high amounts of vitamin C can lead to all sorts of stomach and kidney maladies.
The bottom line: Many prominent researchers in the medical field believe that daily vitamins are so worthless that even research money on effectiveness is wasted. Apparently, it is getting harder for vitamin proponents to find respectable labs to pay attention to them anymore, which could mean a trend to more verifiable, scientific nutritional supplement choices for consumers.