Sunday, July 21, 2013

Taking the tablets

This is an interesting piece on the history of the craze for vitamin supplements and the nonsensical claims made for their benefits. As it points out, in some cases, they are not even harmless. It tells the story of Linus Pauling, a double Nobel winner, who ruined his reputation pursuing an obsession.

What struck me most though was the utter cynicism of the vitamin manufacturers.
Two days later, on October 12, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic published the results of a study of 36,000 men who took vitamin E, selenium, both, or neither. They found that those receiving vitamin E had a 17 percent greater risk of prostate cancer. In response to the study, Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said, "The concept of multivitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits. There was never any scientific data supporting their usage." On October 25, a headline in the Wall Street Journal asked, "Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?" Studies haven't hurt sales. In 2010, the vitamin industry grossed $28 billion, up 4.4 percent from the year before. "The thing to do with [these reports] is just ride them out," said Joseph Fortunato, chief executive of General Nutrition Centers. "We see no impact on our business."
This is a multi-billion business that spreads mistrust in everything from artificial sweeteners to conventional medicine by posing as a popular champion. It ignores clear, clinical evidence of the dangers of its own products in order to keep making money. Pseudo-science is not harmless. In South Africa alone, Thabo Mbeki's policies, informed by HIV denial, are estimated to have led to 300,000 avoidable deaths. There is only one word for it - exploitation.

1 comment:

looby said...

On this theme: "what if gluten intolerence is all in your head?"

A relative of mine goes on and on about this and now spends a fortune on bread that tastes of cardboard. Still, we've all got to get our attention from somewhere haven't we?