If Dr. Offit Had His Way, Vitamins Would Be Treated as Drugs

June 11, 2013
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nannystateThe New York Times has published another shameful op-ed bashing nutritional supplements. Here’s our response.

This week, Dr. Paul A. Offit, chief of the infectious diseases division of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (and author of a forthcoming book called, hilariously enough, Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine), wrote a piece for the New York Times called “Don’t Take Your Vitamins.”

In his article, Dr. Offit states, “Nutrition experts argue that people need only the recommended daily allowance —the amount of vitamins found in a routine diet. Vitamin manufacturers argue that a regular diet doesn’t contain enough vitamins, and that more is better.” This statement is offensive (not to mention patently incorrect) on multiple levels:

  • We do not get enough nutrients from our food. The soil in factory farms is depleted of nutrients, resulting in less nutritious vegetables. The runoff from CAFOs and their animals, together with the pesticide residue on plants, produce foodstuffs that are considerably less safe and healthful than their organic counterparts.
  • Many Americans do not eat a healthy diet, and instead consume primarily processed foods—resulting in severe nutrient deficiency. A 2005 USDA report found that 93% of Americans have an inadequate intake of vitamin E, 56% have an inadequate intake of magnesium, 44% have an inadequate intake of vitamin A, 31% have an inadequate intake of vitamin C, 14% have an inadequate intake of vitamin B6, 12% have an inadequate intake of zinc, and 8% have an inadequate intake of folate.
  • The notion that “nutrition experts” agree with the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) is absurd—the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics adhere slavishly to RDAs. The vast majority of nutritionists and naturopaths provide treatment through vitamin and mineral supplementation, often recommending dosages well above the RDA.
  • In fact, RDAs are not the best way to determine optimal levels of vitamin and mineral intake. RDAs are based on extraordinarily conservative recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and spring from a deeply flawed risk assessment approach. As Robert Verkerk, executive and scientific director at ANH-Int’l, notes in his critique of this approach, there is a “tendency for risk assessments to be undertaken on ‘nutrient groups,’ rather than discrete ‘nutrient forms,’ despite considerable variation in biological response between nutrients within given groups.” For example, a risk approach that analyzes one more potentially dangerous form of niacin at higher dosages (nicotinic acid) discriminates against other forms of the same nutrient (inositol hexanicotinate).
  • Dr. Offit fails to distinguish between using nutritional supplements to maintain optimal health versus using supplements just to prevent disease (e.g., rickets), which is a much lower bar. He also ignores the fact that each individual has different nutritional needs and therefore different supplementation needs.

Dr. Offit cites a few studies indicating that vitamin E is linked to an increased risk of mortality, heart failure, and prostate cancer. Yet ANH-USA won a qualified health claim—in court, based on science—that vitamin E may actually reduce the risk of cancer!

The Life Extension Foundation (LEF) cites numerous studies that soundly contradict Dr. Offit’s assertions and show the protective effects of multivitamin supplementation. A large intervention trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 discussed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which over 14 000 US physicians took either a multivitamin or placebo each day and were followed for an average of 11.2 years. The doctors who took a multivitamin had a statistically significant reduction in total cancer incidence compared to those who took a placebo pill. Then there’s the 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which over 31, 000 women aged 49–83 revealed cardiovascular benefits of regular multivitamin use. In this study, women without a history of cardiovascular disease who took a multivitamin for more than five years had about a 40% reduced risk of heart attack.

Moreover, Dr. Offit referred to the Proxmire amendment, which prevented FDA from regulating megavitamins as drugs based solely on their potency (i.e., if they exceeded a certain potency, they would be considered a drug) as the agency’s biggest failure. We would call this a tremendous victory. The Proxmire amendment ensured that we would have access to high-dosage vitamins and minerals that could not go through the exorbitantly expensive drug approval process because, as natural substances that cannot be patented, manufacturers could never charge enough money to recoup the money spent in clinical trials.

As LEF notes, Dr. Offit ignores data that conflicts with his agenda. He only cites studies that suggest negative effects of supplementation and excludes important evidence to the contrary. This approach, LEF opines, may have been influenced by the fact that he will soon be publishing a book bashing alternative medicine. The entire piece seems to have been written to promote interest in his new book.

45 Responses to “If Dr. Offit Had His Way, Vitamins Would Be Treated as Drugs”

  1. Jordan says:

    Did any of you actually read the article in the NY Times? Dr. Offit merely suggests that it is natural and healthy to get a sufficient amount of vitamins from our diet. Taking mega doses may or may not be harmful, but at the very least it is an unnecessary expense. Vitamin overdose is probably not harming that many people, but it is a complete waste of money. How can you say he is paid by big Pharma if he is advocating not buying products produced by big Pharma, i.e. vitamins.

    The people claiming that our soil and by extension our food is devoid of nutrition are completely misinformed. If this were true, you would be able to easily test and confirm this. Anyone? Our food we eat contains all the nutrition we need. The problem with the diet of Americans is not the quality, it is the quantity. Most problems are caused by overeating, not by lack of vitamins.

    So many of the comments on this article are written by people who I’m sure care very much about their health, but who are quoting statistics and facts that are simply not true. Please don’t believe anything you read on just one website or article, especially if the article doesn’t provide and reference to real evidence.

       1 likes

    • Nick says:

      Jordan:

      The authors of the article here are citing studies, but you haven’t in your reply. Care to provide those? Mega dose vitamin use appears to have a mix of results in research studies, but not supportive of your comments. And then there is an increasing amount of research confirmation re: benefits from herbs and amino acids that aren’t captured in a reference to “supplements” where people mostly think of vitamins.

      As for the Big Pharma dividends re: vitamins, you are the first person I’ve encountered who seems to think those profit margins are significant compared to its drug sales. Let’s hear Dr. Offit talk openly about the 100,000 + deaths per year from properly prescribed, properly taken FDA approved drugs in comparison to the safety record for supplements before we assume he is a knowledgeable source of information for such issues.

      As for loss of nutrients through soil erosion, here is a summary of studies to consider:

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss/

      So you appear quite weak in your claims re: this article.

         0 likes

  2. Kelli says:

    The guy is an absolute quack vaccine-pusher who knows nothing about alternative medicine. He knows nothing about the reality of conventional medicine and its ignorance on true health yet he thinks doctors would actually prescribe vitamins?

       1 likes

  3. Wake up New York Times!

       1 likes

  4. Ian says:

    Dr. Offit MD is the poster child of AMA quackery and fraud. He has just conducted malpractice in public.

       11 likes

  5. Rick says:

    Dr Offit actually helps the use of nutritional supplements and vitamins by being so ridiculous that he discredits himself. If he is a Doctor that sees clients/patients, many if not all of them will go to some one with a brain and some common sense. His book will most likely be a dud. Good Luck Doc!

       8 likes

  6. abinico warez says:

    Medical industry kills 200,000 yearly. Doctors need to be treated like murderers.

       7 likes

  7. Caron says:

    Does Dr. Offit have any significant education and training in nutrition. He clearly does not understand the condition of our food chain and the massive nutrient losses that have occurred since the turn of the century in virtual every food we consume. Common sense, which Dr. Offit seems to be devoid of in this matter,,dictates that the current levels of toxicity and stress from multiple sources in today’s lifestyle, the current environmental stress and the weakening of our DNA as a species, increases our need for more nutrition not less. Any true scientist with any level of research training could conclude if they were so inclined to look at the facts, that that the foods we eat are not sufficient to support our health in today’s world. Diabetes is not from too much nutrition, Cancer is not from too much nutrition, Heart Disease is not from too much nutrition. Joint degeneration is not from too much nutrition. Perhaps Dr Offit could tell us which diseases are from too much good nutrition.

    This guy has already shown his cards and his ignorance. His book will flop even with the NY Times trying to create a market for him. I would recommend he take some SamE, Vitamin B complex and some extra Magnesium and L-Threonate to help him through his book sales failure. Frankly, is anyone interested in anything this guy has to say? Do we even care what he thinks. Most of us are too busy trying to take responsibility for our own health and trying to help those we love do the same. We really don’t have the time or money to give to someone who is only interested in spreading seeds of negativity and manipulating facts to perpetuate his own self serving agenda. Gee.. is that considered propaganda?

    The reason the supplement industry is a billion dollar business isn’t because people are stupid, which Dr. Offit apparently thinks. Supplement sales have exploded in direct relationship to the failure of the medical establishment to provide any legitimate solutions to peoples failing health except drugs that are clearly falling short. Why doesn’t the good Dr. that took the Hippocratic oath try bashing the drug companies that cause hundreds of thousands of deaths per year with their drugs. Maybe Dr. Offit has too much interest in stock options in those drug companies.

    Maybe Dr. Offit would like to educate us on the death toll caused by prescription and over the counter drugs over the last decade as compared to that from nutritional…

       7 likes

  8. Joe Aycock says:

    It’s clear that his hatred of vitamins is because he can’t get any kick-backs from his bed-partner, the FDA

       4 likes

  9. Dr. Leonardo Cannone says:

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    THAT’S WHAT ITS ALL ABOUT FOR DR. OFFIT

       5 likes

  10. D. Smith says:

    Anyone who knows anything about Offit knows better than to believe a word he says. He seems to know little about any subject and yet has no problem projecting his opinion, which is ALL he has. His drivel on vaccinations is the worst, however. He completely turns a blind eye to the facts presented about nosocomial deaths and iatrogenic atrocities. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he was around in 1913! It’s like he wrote the book on how to do everything as wrong as possible, where the public is concerned with health issues. What a jackass.

       6 likes

  11. David S. Clark says:

    These guys remind me of that wack-a mole game. As soon as one pops up condeming vitamins, he gets(wacked down) refutted by the ‘true facts’ that show just how valuable vitamins are to supplement. But when we wack Offit down, you can bet another one will pop up……..most likely it will be Waxman ……..again!

       4 likes

  12. judith fenton says:

    This tyranny has been going on for decades. Look a the world wide assault on vitamins, Codex Alimentarious. I am not sure of the spelling.but I am sure of what it means, loss of our freedom to take care of ourselves. I wonder about the innate IQ of people like Dr. Offit. Integrative medicine is practiced by smarter doctors than he!

       4 likes

  13. mark swann says:

    I think most people who take vitamins also eat well and exercise. So it’s probably hard to tease out the impact of each. But the great thing about supplements is their safety. They may not work right away but they are remarkably safe especially compared the FDA-approved drugs. People who take herbs and supplements are probably saving the medical system billions of dollars every year. Anyone knows that the medical establishment is extraordinarily wasteful. And also extraordinarily dangerous. And, sadly, primarily driven by money. It has a deservedly terrible reputation. The only time you really need it is if you have a terrible accident with huge trauma, broken bones, blood loss, etc. Otherwise, even for heart problems or cancer, you’re much smarter to read all the alternative books and newsletters and more or less treat yourself.

       4 likes

  14. Jeff says:

    That’s opinion not science. For profit Offit doesn’t live in reality.

       3 likes

  15. armand c says:

    Dr. OFF IT must be an instrument of CODEX Alimentarius a sinister intention to stop the holistic alternative people choice for natural wellness. Statistics don’t lie the harmful effects of Pharmaceutical drugs should have shaken us and awaken the global population. Orthodox medicine of quackery has injured, maimed and resulted in death because of Doctors mistakes and Hospital procedures. Medical school curriculum was bastardized by the Rockefeller Foundation to serve the big Pharma and the rest of the Chemical Co.!! Welcome to the era of GMO and pesticides!!

       3 likes

  16. Gregory says:

    I think that the Dr is getting paid by the dam drug companies, so they can all make billions, and laugh at us. The Dr Offit, is offit his rocker.

       3 likes

  17. Chris Klopp says:

    So-called modern medicine has shown repeatedly that they cling to dogma. Their allegiance is to their image, their liability, and their pocketbook. The public should be should be allowed to make their own choices. Moreover, our regulatory agencies have no been stellar in protecting the public. This speaks to a strong lobbying relationship with drug companies. Don’t make vitamins into drugs!

       21 likes

  18. Edward Kerr says:

    So what is Dr. Offit off? Let me suggest that it’s his rocker…

       12 likes

    • Lou says:

      “Doc” Offit apparently does not know RDA stands for “Real Dumb Advice”.

      REAL DUMB ADVICE

      “Even though the RDA is high enough to prevent some deficiency diseases such as rickets and scurvy, they may not be high enough to have an impact on preventing other diseases. This is particularly true of vitamins C and E.” Prevention, Note the classic is the paultry18 ng/ml RDA of vitamin D to prevent rickets which will NOT insure strong bones, help prevent CANCER or even allow your body to read your DNA library.

      RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance ) or as you will come to know it Real Dumb Advice, is supposed to be the amounts of selected nutrients considered adequate to meet the known minimum nutrient needs of most young healthy people. In actuality it is a pernicious, devious, political document used to justify our garbage diet and inadequate medical treatment.

      http://healthyprotocols.com/2_rda.htm

         2 likes

  19. Russ Mason, M.S. says:

    It is clear that Dr. Offit is either in cahoots with the FDA, in the pay of Big Pharma, or both.

    His lame efforts to discredit nutritional supplements have been consistently disproven by reputable science.

    Pity that some gullible people take him seriously. The wise ones know better.

       19 likes

  20. Mary says:

    How many deaths have there been from multivitamins and natural supplement? NOW-how many deaths have occurred from FDA approved medication? I rest my case. Not allowing Americans to make their own decisions about their health by taking responsibility (multivitamins and supplements) is a blatant disregard for the health and a grave disservice to American people. Just another way the FDA and Doctors can make more money.

       20 likes

  21. Pam Britton says:

    Leave the supplements alone! Prescriptions are more harmful in many more ways. One chemical pill causes a side affect that calls for another chemical pill. Chemical pills aren’t tested well enough because it’s a money maker for the drug companies and insurance companies.

    Leave my natural supplements alone!

       11 likes

  22. Patricia Stuut says:

    Eveything contained in the reply, “If Dr. Offit Had His Way, Vitamins Would Be Treated as Drugs” is dead-on, logical and the kind of thinking one hopes will guide the future.

       2 likes

  23. Barbara Finlayson says:

    Do not take my free right away to take vitamins, & herbs.

       6 likes

  24. Bill Harner says:

    “Doctors” like this are the real quacks. As long as they run tests like they did on Vitamin E where they just use 1 of the 8 components of the true vitamin they will be able to show the results they want. People are waking up to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is only interested in customers and their profit potential. Healthy people means no customers. The conclusion from this is pretty straight forward.

    Do some historical research in regard to how Rockefeller controlled the medical schools and has assured Americans they will be customers for life. Ever wonder why less than 25% of doctors now belong to the AMA ?

       9 likes

  25. George R Larko Jr says:

    What do you people at the FDA think your doing???Are you pushing for a Suprime Court battle??? If you are then it starts today(6/12/2013)by the time our inept government get to protecting you it will be to late.So,reconcider your actions on suppliments which you have no Constitutional grounds or right to do this course of action.

       4 likes

  26. Sybilla Elliott says:

    Leave our vitamins alone. I would rather take a vitamin than any type of medication and so far, besides exercising every day I am doing great.

       4 likes

  27. Dr Paul A. offit is completely off it. Ignorance is everywhere and specially in doctors that have an interest like Dr Offit in promoting his book!!!!!!.

       5 likes

  28. Anne says:

    I do agree with the Doctor to some extent . We can get most of our nutrition from eating well. I also agree that most food purchased today does not supply that nutrition that we need. So there is a problem. Taking supplements is not the only answer. People need to get more educated on this and start demanding better food ( as well as growing whatever they can) and demanding correct information from drug companies as well as supplement companies. I am very grateful for the supplements I use but am very grateful to my natruopath doctor that does not go to supplements and or drugs first but works with food and ilfestyle first . It is not easy to figure out and takes time and effort. Lets show the drug world and quick fix world that we can be responsible and look for the lasting solution.

       3 likes

  29. Gordon Sheidler says:

    Then they could require a prescription for cold cereal, bread, vitamin D enriched milk!

       1 likes

  30. Marygrace Coneff says:

    Right on! Great points and very accurate, unlike the article this guy wrote and his horrible book filled with lies!

       1 likes

  31. Elaine Brown says:

    This is without a doubt one of the most ridiculous articles I have ever read.

    As a sickly child, I had a country doctor who had vitamins compounded for me which my family is convinced saved my life.

    I am a woman in her 70s who began taking large doses of vitamins of my own volitions since my 20s. Since childhood, I had many bouts of flu, colds, and bronchitis. When I started taking Vitamin C, it became obvious that I was suffering from a deficiency and that encouraged me to turn to vitamins for increased nutrition.

    Today, most people think I am at least 20 years younger than I am and other than an injury, I have had nearly perfect health for years.

    Do not be bamboozled by someone who knocks vitamins in order to sell a book. Look around and check out the health and looks of older people who take large doses of vitamins, minerals, and food supplements including herbs and homeopathy. I think we who do will clearly outlive those who do not.

       5 likes

  32. Wendy says:

    Dr. Offit has every right to his opinions. However they are simply his opinions. He’s out and out wrong about some of the things he claims and he is deliberately misleading people to try and convince them his opinion is fact. Many, many doctors are of the opinion that vitamins are useless but isn’t that our right to make that choice? If we think they help us and we can afford to buy them we should have that choice. We don’t need anything else curtailing our freedom of choice about our health care. Enough is enough!

       4 likes

  33. Lloyd Downs says:

    Supplements are generally natural in their composite and not chemically tinkered with.

       2 likes

  34. Margaret says:

    It’s disheartening and even depressing to see so many people and institutions of our society and government in positions that allow them to spread disinformation, even in formerly distinguished publications, to reflect the corrupt agenda of the corporations that now largely control congress. I can’t see how the spreading corruption might be eliminated or at least reduced, until and if corporate money is taken out of the picture. And that has to begin with publicly funded election campaigns. We are so far from this being possible.

       4 likes

  35. Gregory Baker says:

    to all staff at the fda we love our vitamins and we do not want too pay an arm and a leg for them.please leave our vitamins alone.

       3 likes

  36. Jim Park says:

    The day I listen to an M.D. about what vitamins to take will truly be a cold day in hell! They get trained by the drug companies and know very little about nutrition. It wouldn’t be in their favor to give any good advice about nutrition because then people would be like me and never have to go to an M.D. and that wouldn’t be good for their pocketbooks at all.

       5 likes

  37. John Ratliff says:

    Doctor’s prescribed drugs kill thousands of people each year. Where is the proof of vitamins killing thousands of people. Cancer Doctors are looking really hard on vitamin D

       6 likes

  38. Anne says:

    HE’S PROBABLY BEHOLDEN’ TO BIG PHARMA OR THE FDA, OR BOTH.
    I wonder what kind of juicy little perks he’s getting from them? I’ll bet if you dug deep enough you’d find they have something to do with getting his book published.

    Any physician who bashes nutritional supplementation as an adjunct to traditional medical treatment isn’t fit to put M.D. behind his name.

    “Let food be your medicine” (The only problem is we’ve ruined our food supply, thus the need for supplementation!)

       6 likes

    • susie says:

      Paul Offit sold his soul a long time ago. He is the holder of the patent on a Merck vacciine that killed 29 children the year it was introduced (Rotarix). He is a big pharma shill who is given credibility by a complicit media that gets a huge chunk of ad revenue from big pharma. Other ludicrous statements he’s made include his belief that “vaccines are so safe that you could get 10,000 in one day” with no negative health consequeces. I’d like to see that SOB take 10,000 iof his poison potions on live TV. He has ghost-authored a book trying to debunk the vaccine – autism connection, He is a sell out to mankind and he will occupy the hottest place when this is all over, so he might as well enjoy the $$$$$ while it lasts, because it will burn where he’s going next.

         2 likes

  39. Esther P. Smith says:

    To Whom It May Concern:
    As people get older their bodies do not absorb vitamins from food as well as younger people. As we take various medicines, the medicines take nutrients from the body which need to be replaced. We must be able to buy these supplements freely on the market without prescription. Please do not mess with the system we have today.
    Thank you.

       4 likes

  40. Vitamins are not drugs

       4 likes

  41. Victoria Bingham says:

    Promote interest in his book, yes, and expand the possibility that he’ll increase his bottom line writing all the vitamin prescriptions he currently sees no need for.

       4 likes

  42. Evan Eberhardt says:

    Paul Offit is a vaccine pushing quack. He has made tens of millions off his vaccines. May he rot.

       7 likes

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