Are vitamins worth the money?

(Bradley Simke/Flickr)

“One in two adults takes a daily vitamin pill, and Americans spend tens of billions of dollars each year on supplements. Now, a small coterie of physicians writing in a leading medical journal has offered this blunt advice: ‘Stop wasting money,'” writes Roni Caryn Rabin in the New York Times.

In an unusually direct opinion piece, the five authors say that for healthy Americans worried about chronic disease, there’s no clear benefit to taking vitamin and mineral pills. And in some instances, they may even cause harm.

The authors make an exception for supplemental vitamin D, which they say needs further research. Even so, widespread use of vitamin D pills “is not based on solid evidence that benefits outweigh harms,” the authors wrote. For other vitamins and supplements, “the case is closed.”

“The message is simple,” the editorial continued. “Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.”

Today’s Question: Are vitamins worth the money?

  • Keith

    My doctor recommended fish oil and Vitamin D12, but not to bother with the daily mutlivitamins, unless it made me feel better to take them. I decided to drop’em. I eat healthy enough so am probably not missing them.

  • Sue de Nim

    I eat a balanced diet but take Target’s store brand multivitamin to prevent obsessive worry about whether my diet is balanced enough to prevent a deficiency of some nutrient or other. It’s far and away the cheapest part of my diet, so the cost is insignificant. Nothing in the cited article persuades me I’m wrong about that.

  • AndyBriebart

    Walgreens private label multi-vitamin. Nothing special, nothing expensive, nothing fancy.

  • Kirsten

    I take pharmaceutical grade vitamin D and Cod Liver Oil, which add also omegas and K, which is often lacking in our diet. taking something that is pharmaceutical grade is important, as others are not regulated, so you might not even be getting what it says is in it on the bottle.

  • Meagan

    Because they want you to be sick…the medical industry is not profitable with healthy people.

  • Rich in Duluth

    My doctor says a multi-vitamin isn’t necessary. He’s my hired expert on all issues about the body, so I follow his advice. He’s recommended Vitamin D for me as I am somewhat deficient in that.

  • PaulJ

    If science says it is not real, it’s not real. I heard meat has most of the vitamins you need (but that’s just something I heard).

    • Jamie

      Based on my diet of mostly meat and no greens, I’d have to agree.

  • Sam in Duluth

    Eating well, lots of leafy greens and fruit, is all one needs.

  • Jim G

    Food is my source of vitamins, however I take Vitamin D in the winter to prevent SAD. My wife hails from California; the home, says she, of fruits and nuts. So we are covered.

  • Tanya

    Just because studies haven’t proven something makes you live longer doesn’t necessarily mean it is a waste of money. My hair and fingernails are a lot nicer since taking prenatal vitamins (when I wasn’t even pregnant). Vitamin D deficiency may not be fatal but it can lead to fatigue and seasonal depression. Other supplements may be worthwhile in certain circumstances. The problem is that no big drug companies are funding studies on these supplements because there is no money to be made, so doctors don’t have the “evidence” they need to recommend them.

    • kevins

      An alternative view to the funding issue is that supplement manufacturers are not required to study their products, as medical pharmaceuticals are. At the risk of seeming cynical, if a supplement manufacturer wanted to “prove” it’s product worked, it could conduct appropriate research and then publish the results, consistent with proper scientific method. I’m reasonably certain that the manufacturers are pleased not to have to do so.

  • AliciaL

    I can’t help but wonder how this study was funded. I can’t help but think this is a convenient ploy from pharmaceutical companies to tell people to keep taking expensive pills with side effects and avoid vitamins that are just basic supplements of natural ingredients.

    • Debo

      You are absolutely correct! Yet it is reported as fact!

    • Marc

      It was not a study, it was an editorial. The authors were reporting on their assessment of the published studies that are available. Studies of Canadian POWs show that those who have been severely malnourished can benefit from taking large doses of vitamins. The editorial addresses the use of vitamins by the general population.

  • Curt

    This doesn’t even mention the fact that a high percentage of supplements don’t contain what their label says they do.

  • kevins

    I remember when Steve McQueen had cancer and was dying. He went to Mexico to avail himself of treatments not available here, including some preparation made from apricot pits. He passed away, a sad result of a devilishly difficult to treat disease. I don’t balme folks if they seek any therapy that they feel will address a problem, but unfortunately, that makes them extremely vulnerable to maltreatment and financial folly, cynically, by indistries that purport to enable health. As a society, we have chosen not to regulate vitamins and other nutriceuticals, which is likely much better for the industry than the patient.

  • davedavis256

    Further study suggests that most allopathic medicines are way too expensive and do more harm than good in a majority of cases.

  • JQP

    1) i’m sure they charge only what it costs to manufacture the pills, plus a small profit.
    2) as for the benefit to me …. that was zero …

  • Rosie Palmer

    I have seen dramatic improvements in my own health and that of my elderly dog with the use of vitamin supplements. I have been suffering for years with aggressive periodontal disease. All dentist ever offered was to pull all my teeth and put in implants, at the cost of $30,000. They said there was no cure. I then started taking large amounts of vitamin C, far exceeding recommended dosage and my gums are now perfectly healthy. My dog is 13yrs old and started to develop cataracts in both eyes. Vet said my only option to save my dogs eyesight was expensive surgery. I started feeding her Lutein and Billberry extract and now her eyes are perfectly clear. They may be right about a daily multivitamin not showing much effect, but I do believe targeted vitamin therapy could cure a lot of diseases… But because it wont line the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies, we will never see a well designed study proving otherwise.

  • LynnW

    As Americans, too often we seek an easy way out of self-care by applying some kind of band-aid. Investing in fresh, quality food and taking the time to prepare and eat it, is no doubt a better approach. Why does taking a pill, and entrusting our health to others, somehow seem more logical and legitimate?