Are Vitamins Useless?

Are Vitamins Useless?
Are Vitamins Useless?

Are Vitamins Useless?

Are vitamin pills even necessary? – The Week

A recent long-term study of more than 400,000 people concluded that “most vitamin supplements [have] no clear benefit” and warned that excess vitamin E and beta-carotene may actually weaken the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells. “The case is closed,” the study authors wrote. “Enough is enough.”

via Are vitamin pills even necessary? – The Week.

Is it ethical to sell a product which is in general a simple placebo?

In the Wizard of Oz, the fake wizard gives the Cowardly Lion, a horrible tasting concoction. He tells the lion that this “formula” will give him courage. The lion drinks the horrible drink and the wizard asks him how he feels. The lion replies, “Full of courage.”

So, we who spend from a few to hundreds of dollars on vitamins may also be said to be full of it.

How did a literate modern population fall into the same black hole of ignorance that afflicted Americans during the golden age of patent medicine, when laudanum and alcohol laden brews were sold to the masses for incredible profits?

During the nineteenth century, “entrepeneurs” like Lidya E. Pinkham sold millions of dollars of a useless product and established the science of  modern advertising. And she was just one of countless thousands of sellers. In the first half of the twentieth century, John R. Brinkley, Medical Charlatan, sold vials of colored water apparently to boost virility. He had other means of increasing virility which I will happily pass on discussing but if you want to look it up, I can’t stop you. How about “Dr. Isaac Thompson’s Celebrated Eye Water?” It sold for almost two hundred years. When the Food and Drug Act was passed, it was discovered what was in it – opium, alcohol and zinc sulphate. 

But did we learn anything from this as a culture? How come we still hope that some spurious product will make us all better? Is the need for medicine, in a real sense, magic, a human craving?

I’m uncomfortable writing about this. So many people have bragged to me about the vitamins they take and the benefits they experienced. How do you argue with people who experienced real progress because they believed? Placebo effects are in a sense real, in that confidence often has us acting in our own behalf when otherwise we might not.

But is encouraging a placebo effect, a ethical rationale for selling an otherwise useless product?

The Rational Consumer?

In economics, we have the idea of the rational buyer, the human who bases his purchases on knowledge, facts. The idea is that this paragon will always choose the best product. I make fun of this concept all the time since it disregards the very real irrationality that afflicts humanity. But assuming the theory has validity how does the rational human choose the best product when there is an absence of knowledge? – A deliberate absence of knowledge in this case.

The FDA’s permission is not required for the sale of supplements. The Food and Drug Administration can and does regulate the products after they have entered the market. However, the agency has limited resources and is essentially playing the game of “whack a mole” with the sellers.

Let me give you an idea of the problems the FDA uncovers with these products –

FDA Warning on Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss

U.S. Marshals seize unapproved and misbranded drug products at Missouri distributor

Standard Process Recalls Cataplex ACP, Cataplex C, Pancreatrophin PMG (Product number 6650) Lot 114

How is a consumer supposed to understand the dangers of these products when there are literally thousands of them and the regulators can only react to problems?

The vitamin industry sells 12 billion dollars worth of product to Americans each year. The advertisements are everywhere. But no matter how clever the ads, the claims of benefits so convincing, and the assurances of “science,” the majority of these products are useless.

It is wrong to sell products that do not live up to their claims. It’s lying and fraud.

Let’s regulate the industry fully and find out what few items work and throw the rest to the wind.

James Pilant

14 thoughts on “Are Vitamins Useless?

      1. Vitamins, in the artificial form, can never replace organic food. But when in times of urgency, like in my case, I need the supplements to temporarily boost my immune system. But ultimately, as I recover, food will be the main and only source of nutrition. I have been reading about nutrition because I do not believe that medicine can heal a body. It can ease the symptoms but eventually it’s the body that is fighting the disease. So healthy intake of nutirients from clean food sources is actually a long term solution to health. Not the vitamins in the synthetic form. A healthy happy mind also gives the body and soul a brilliant tone. That’s what I learn from my horrid skin problem. Medicine and other pharmaceutical products actually cannot solve problems. It can ease your pain in order for the body to recuperate. But it is ultimately your immune system that counts.

        Like

    1. Vitamins, in the artificial form, can never replace organic food. But when in times of urgency, like in my case, I need the supplements to temporarily boost my immune system. But ultimately, as I recover, food will be the main and only source of nutrition. I have been reading about nutrition because I do not believe that medicine can heal a body. It can ease the symptoms but eventually it’s the body that is fighting the disease. So healthy intake of nutirients from clean food sources is actually a long term solution to health. Not the vitamins in the synthetic form. A healthy happy mind also gives the body and soul a brilliant tone. That’s what I learn from my horrid skin problem. Medicine and other pharmaceutical products actually cannot solve problems. It can ease your pain in order for the body to recuperate. But it is ultimately your immune system that counts.

      Like

  1. Reblogged this on Daring to Change and commented:
    Vitamins, in the artificial form, can never replace organic food. But when in times of urgency, we would definitely need the supplements to temporarily boost our immune systems. But ultimately, as we recover, food will be the main and only source of nutrition. I have been reading about nutrition because I do not believe that medicine can heal a body. It can ease the symptoms but eventually it’s the body that is fighting the disease. So healthy intake of nutirients from clean food sources is actually a long term solution to health. Not the vitamins in the synthetic form. A healthy happy mind also gives the body and soul a brilliant tone. Studies have shown that being kind and happy actually makes the body more alkaline, hence less prone to diseases which thrive in acidic biological environments. Medicine and other pharmaceutical products actually cannot solve problems permanently and in singularity. It must be accompanied by a healthy mind and body that is derived from organic forms and clean physical surroundings. It can ease your pain in order for the body to recuperate. But it is ultimately your immune system that counts. -@karen_fu

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    1. That is an important point in the research. There can be a need for vitamins when a balanced diet isn’t possible. I disagree with you on medicine. There are effective remedies for some maladies. We humans, are amazingly complex, and as science develops we find new levels of complexity. However, you are absolutely right to be suspicious of medical products. When there are billions of dollars at stake even scientific research can be corrupted and misused.

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      1. True that medicine does good when it comes to maladies, especially those that are highly contagious. But then if we have a socially stable and healthy environment to start with, there would not be such illnesses around to haunt us. The city life that many ailments could come from mainly environmental pollution as well as food contamination plus work stress contributes to most of the illnesses. Prevention is better than cure in most cases. We have come to a point that most of the materials we use for products and all are sort of ‘poisoned’. As such we are forced to live with it. With global climate change and the rapid mutation of viruses, preventing illnesses can be harder in cities than in rural or remote areas. Synthetic forms of vitamins only help in the near term. The problem of sorting out illnesses is really not vitamins. To exploit medicine and vitamins to gain profit is both a bad and even unwise way to do so. But some unethical medical professions do practice that.

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      2. Karen, you are certainly one of the fastest responders to my replies that I have ever known. You’re quite right in your observations. In fact, people like you are the reason I have so much hope and faith in the coming generation after the many failures of my generation.

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      3. Thanks for the compliment. I missed typed the earlier reply and had to do a retype. Actually I am not that quick. It’s just something I feel that makes the cut a little quicker. I don’t hold a high social status so my ideas usually don’t get passed beyond a certain points partly due to health (I get ill by small ailments and at intervals some skin problems due to sensitivity). Also in a way, I don’t go all the way out to get a status. I just thought if I were good, I’d get there. If not, online post of ideas may be a good way to express thoughts and perhaps a solution for better living.

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  2. Thanks for the compliment. I missed typed the earlier reply and had to do a retype. Actually I am not that quick. It’s just something I feel that makes the cut a little quicker. I don’t hold a high social status so my ideas usually don’t get passed beyond a certain points partly due to health (I get ill by small ailments and at intervals some skin problems due to sensitivity). Also in a way, I don’t go all the way out to get a status. I just thought if I were good, I’d get there. If not, online post of ideas may be a good way to express thoughts and perhaps a solution for better living.

    Like

    1. You are very good at what you do. I, myself, have chronic sinusitis. So, I deal with a lot of pain and sinus drainage. I tell myself it is a opportunity to live bravely by enduring.
      You are going to be something, something important. It is unlikely that we will ever meet and I regret that, but you will be a very big deal.
      James Pilant

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  3. Pingback: Is Vitamin E Beneficial? | Pilant's Business Ethics Blog

  4. Pingback: Is Vitamin E Beneficial? | Pilant's Business Ethics

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