Time to put the Vitamins Away

Time to put the Vitamins Away

Over the years, many of you have heard me talk about how needless it is to give your children "vitamins."

The evidence for their benefit has never been found, and many studies have actually found them to cause some harm.   

But a recent essay by Dr. Paul Offit gathers the evidence together better than any piece I have seen, and simply stated, makes it clear that no one should be taking multivitamins, they do no good, and they indeed cause grave harm.

Dr. Offit is one of our nation's most thoughtful pediatric infectious disease experts.  A true scholar, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, he has devoted much of his career to sorting out fact from fiction in our wild medical marketplace.    Most recently he has published a book reviewing 51,000 claims of cures called Do You Believe in Magic (Harper, June 2013).  He finds that only 4 of the 51,000 claims have any proof behind them.

But in this essay he traces the history of how we came to be a nation where about half of the country takes a vitamin pill every day.  He then reviews all the published studies on whether taking such pills work.  And then he looks at whether they cause any harm.

It turns out that any of us who take a vitamin owe our interest in doing so to one man, Dr. Linus Pauling.  Linus Pauling is one of the most brilliant scientists of the 20th century.  A towering genius in the field of chemistry, he is responsible for our very understanding of how molecules form.   But in the last phase of his career he made a speculation that turned out to be untrue, but still lives on in our imagination- that if you eat a huge amount of vitamins, you will be healthier.  His claim was actually that if you eat enough vitamin pills, you will never get a cold, or cancer, or maybe even heart disease.

But take a look at the evidence, which is deep, abundant, and rich.

VITAMINS OFFER NO BENEFIT (except folic acid)
Studies have spanned over the decades and enrolled vast numbers of people.  In every instance, the evidence points to taking vitamin pills as being no more helpful than a cup of water.   Taking vitamins has no impact at all on how many colds you will get, how severe the colds will be, how long they will last.
Taking vitamins will not prevent one case of cancer, or one event of heart disease, or any other illness or condition.

The only exception proven to date is that taking extra folic acid will prevent the development of spina bifida, meaning women should take folic acid (400 mcg a day) from their first to their last period.

Those who have followed the vitamin story should not be surprised to find that taking a multivitamin is a waste of time.  It offers no benefit.  But the evidence for the harm they do is deeply disturbing and perhaps surprising.

In nearly every study, the group that took multivitamins did not live as long as those that did not.
How so?  Mainly due to increased chances of getting cancer or having a heart attack.  The numbers are not tiny.  One study cited looked at 18,000 people from Seattle and found if you took multivitamins your chance of getting cancer went up 28% and your chance of heart disease went up 17%, compared to people who didn't take multivitamins!

Another study found that men who take multivitamins double their risk of developing prostrate cancer.

Linus Pauling himself died of prostrate cancer.

It is time to stop giving our children multivitamins.  
They do no good.
They do cause harm.
Time to stop.

Read the article, and let your friends know about it, too.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

*Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person's particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. wow, thats something to think about! I tried to give my daughter vitimans when she was younger, but they always made her sick to the point that she would vomit and stay sick for days.

  2. I was looking for this type of blog which tells the reality about the benefits and side effects of taking these Vitamins Benefit .Most people think that taking these pills will freed them from cold, cancer and other heart diseases.But the reality is different from this much theory.Taking these pills as being no more helpful than a cup of water.