Watch Live: The Washington Ideas Forum 2014

Questioning the Value of Vitamins

Nestle_sept_30_vitamins_post.jpg

Photo by bradley j/Flickr CC


Ah those British. So ahead of us in so many ways. A professor in Aberdeen had the nerve to suggest that supplements don't make healthy people healthier. The industry reacted accordingly. More interesting is the expectation that sales of vitamin and mineral supplements are expected to drop by 50 percent in the near future. Imagine: the British don't think they do much good.

But maybe Americans don't either? The September issue of Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) is full of doom and gloom. The FDA wants to regulate supplements. Congress is rethinking the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA)--the one that deregulated the industry. Maybe that wasn't such a great idea.

Sports supplements and those for weight loss are getting bad press for the harm they cause. Coupled with the economic downturn, none of this is helping sales. NBJ says last year's 5 percent growth in supplement sales is the lowest since 1997 and predicts that next year will be worse.

Why? As NBJ explains, it gets letters from doctors saying things like this: "I've become stronger in my conviction that taking supplements is nothing more than a giant crapshoot."

This, I argue, is the entirely predictable result of deregulation. The supplement industry worked relentlessly to get itself deregulated. It even wrote the language of the bill that Congress eventually passed (I describe this history in detail in Food Politics). This industry is now facing the consequences of its own actions.

How ironic that supplement makers will be begging the FDA for regulation if for no other reason than to gain some trust.

Presented by

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy. It's very organized."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Health

From This Author

Just In