Vitamin Supplements: Vital? or Rubbish?

14 Nov

ImageIn class today, I was asked what I knew about vitamin supplements and whether it was a good idea to take them or not. To follow up on that conversation, I thought I would post a link to an article that addresses this question directly. This article, by Paul Offit, was published by the Atlantic magazine July 19 of this year and deals with some of the same material from his newest book, Do You Believe in Magic?

Vitamines are certainly required for healthy living, something reflected by their very name (vitamin = vital amine). The question is, how much of each of these do we need to add above and and beyond what we get from a well-balanced diet? It has been proposed that excessive doses of certain vitamins could be a panacea leading to elimination of many of life’s ailments.  From the Atlantic article…

In 1970, [Nobel Prize winning scientist, Linus] Pauling published Vitamin C and the Common Cold, urging the public to take 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C every day (about 50 times the recommended daily allowance). Pauling believed that the common cold would soon be a historical footnote. “It will take decades to eradicate the common cold completely,” he wrote, “but it can, I believe, be controlled entirely in the United States and some other countries within a few years. I look forward to witnessing this step toward a better world.” Pauling’s book became an instant best seller.

ImageThese pronouncements would have amounted to nothing coming from many other people, but Pauling was not just any other person. There’s a chance his pair of Nobel Prizes may have held some weight in people’s minds. 

1 Comment

Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


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One response to “Vitamin Supplements: Vital? or Rubbish?

  1. Mehron

    November 15, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    I’m surely not the most informed on this topic, but I think a lot of people place too much importance on food, dieting and vitamins. If one eats a regular well balanced diet, it really seems like all the extra fine tuning effort is going to see marginal returns at best. When considering all of the other factors and risks in life, why waste much time and energy worrying about what you eat?

    I recently read this (old) piece, which I found to be a well supported look on the issue: Should I Take A Multivitamin by Harriet Hall

    Actually, it looks like there’s a newer article on the same site here: Vitamins and Mortality by Stephen Novella

    Here’s another one and I’m just going to add it my ever growing number of browser tabs right now:
    The Multi-Vitamin Fallacy [Science Based Life]


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