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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Should anyone tell you vitamins are dangerous, please ask:
Where are the bodies?"

The 2003 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposures Surveillance System  states that there have been only two deaths allegedly caused by vitamins. Almost half of all Americans take nutritional supplements every day, some 145,000,000 individual doses daily, for a total of over 53 billion doses annually. And from that, two alleged deaths? That is a product safety record without equal.

Conversely, pharmaceutical drugs, properly prescribed and taken as directed, kill 106,000 Americans each year. That is over 2,000 each week, dead from their prescriptions.  Some physicians estimate the true number of drug-induced deaths to be far higher.

Fatalities are by no means limited to drug products. In the USA in the year 2003, there was a death from "Cream / lotion / makeup," a death from "Granular laundry detergent," one death from plain soap, one death from baking soda, and one death from table salt. Other deaths reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers included:
aspirin: 59 deaths
aerosol air fresheners: 2 deaths
perfume/cologne/aftershave: 2 deaths
charcoal: 3 deaths
dishwashing detergent: 3 deaths (and interestingly, weapons of mass destruction: 0 deaths)

On the other hand, nutritional supplements have proven to be exceptionally safe. Specifically:
* There were no deaths from B-complex vitamin supplements.
* There were no deaths from niacin.
* There were no deaths from vitamin A.
* There were no deaths from vitamin D.
* There were no deaths from vitamin E.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published the recommendation that every person take a multivitamin daily saying that "(S)uboptimal intake of some vitamins, above levels causing classic vitamin deficiency, is a risk factor for chronic diseases and common in the general population, especially the elderly." It is a sensible idea whose time should have come generations ago.

It is curious that, while theorizing many "potential" dangers of vitamins, critics fail to point out how economical supplements are. For low-income households, taking a two-cent vitamin C tablet and a five-cent multivitamin, readily obtainable from any discount store, is vastly cheaper than getting those vitamins by eating right. The uncomfortable truth is that it is often less expensive to supplement than to buy nutritious food, especially out-of-season fresh produce.

According to David DeRose, M.D., M.P.H., "300,000 Americans die annually from poor nutrition choices."  Supplements make any dietary lifestyle, whether good or bad, significantly better. Supplements are an easy, practical entry-level better-nutrition solution for the public, who are more likely to take convenient vitamin tablets than to willingly eat organ meats, wheat germ, and ample vegetables. Scare-stories notwithstanding, taking supplements is not the problem; it is a solution. Malnutrition is the problem.

Public supplementation should be encouraged, not discouraged. Supplements are a cost-effective means of preventing and ameliorating illness. Vitamin safety has been, and remains, extraordinarily high.

8:34:50 PM    comment []

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