Why supplements and vitamin preparations don’t have to be proven effective

It’s in the law. All these supplements and preparations that claim benefits don’t have to prove anything.

Thank you Senator William Proxmire, Dem Wisconsin, who originated the Golden Fleece award, exposing wasteful research spending. Proximire and others protect a 30 Billion vitamin and supplement industry. Health food claims can be fraudulent, but that doesn’t mean the product will be pulled.



4 responses to “Why supplements and vitamin preparations don’t have to be proven effective

  1. I love junkscience.com and in on your side with most issues. But, in this case there is another side to the story, maybe multiple sides.
    1) The effect of placebos is well documented, in fact there have been cases where the placebo actually performed better. Therefore, the psychological benefit would warrant protecting the industry. Although, the manufacturer should be penalized in instances where the manufacturer is lying about the contents of the product. This, of course, would be the responsibility of the CPA not the FDA.
    2) This industry suffers in large part from the same consensual bias as climate change. The consensus of the vast majority of researchers in this area is that these supplements are worthless and that any scientist involved in this research is a charlatan in the pay of the health food industry. The result is that we essentially only get research that is strongly biased toward the negative. For example, after more than 100 years doctors had to admit that a lack of vitamin C caused scurry. Research was done to determine the minimum dose that prevented scurvy. Initially, the government called the the MDR (minimum daily requirement). However, intelligent consumers wanted to know what amount should be taken for maximum benefit, not minimum. Most animals produce their own vitamin C and it appeared that they made much more than the minimum. However, the consensus refused to take that seriously and ultimately the government changed MDR to RDI (recommended daily intake) to side step the question. As with climate change the scientific community bought into the belief that supplements were worthless and research in that area has been negatively affected. In my opinion, we really don’t know what’s good for us. But, those that care the most about their physical health seem to support intelligent supplement use.
    3) I was a pharmacy major for 3 1/2 years and, to the consternation of my teachers, was very interested in supplements and decided to do some research of my own. I discovered two potentially miracle cures that needed some real research to determine the truth. If I was right it would change medical practice dramatically. However, I do not have the means, credibility, or experience to do this on my own and I have not been able to convince anyone of the potential results in the past 40 years. The discoveries were the dramatic effect of vitamin C solutions on burns and the effect of massive doses of vitamin A on infections. My research was very preliminary but with outstanding results. Sadly, this knowledge will die with me. If the consensus did not exist, I might have been able to convince a research hospital to do some preliminary tests to determine the viability of my limited research, with the current attitude that has been impossible.

    • Another interesting topic for unbiased research would be the effect of massive B Vitamin dosage as a cure for Schizophrenia. The key term here is “unbiased.” Have a link:


      As for the effects of C and A as effective treatments, don’t despair. Science and medicine advance one funeral at a time, to paraphrase Max Planck, and what was heresy in one era becomes plainly obvious in another.*

      Just a thought.


      *Right now I’m treating a stomach ulcer – and damned if I know how I got it – successfully with antibiotics, something that would have received dismissive laughter 60 years ago.

      Oh, and a true story:

      Talking with an acquaintance and fellow gym-rat Jerry about exercise, going to the gym and all that. Somehow in gym rat fashion the conversation came around to supplements, and he mentioned that his doctor had made some snide remark to him alone the lines of “Still making expensive urine huh?”

      Me: “So what’s the doctor look like then?”

      Jerry: “He’s dead.”

      We both laughed and shook hands.

      Now isn’t that a nice story?

  2. I thought I’d would be able to edit my comments, doing this on an iPhone and cause problems, please excuse the obvious errors in my previous post.

  3. The limitation on FDA to regulate only on safety is sensible in a country that wants to keep government out of the way of business. Giving FDA responsibility for deciding what can and can’t be sold on anything other than safety grounds would turn them into another EPA – and no sensible person can want that.

    Prosecution of companies which market products that do not contain what is on the label does not require the FDA – US tort law has this covered and in such a litigious society I expect a class action law suit to be filed pretty quickly. This is what happens in all other industries (food included) and has served the US well.

    If you want something else – look at the mess that is the EU and ask yourself if you really want to live there. Products are no safer, consumers are just as likely to be conned, and yet legitimate products take years to reach the market at a regulatory cost many times higher than in the US.

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