This is a supplemental article for those seeking additional information after reading my article about why everyone is so confused regarding multivitamins. When we asked the internet if we should take multivitamins, we got a giant "?" as a response. In this article I will cover the following:
- Suggests a possible reason for all of the confusion regarding multivitamins.
- Reviews an article from Harvard University and one from Tufts University.
- Takes a look at whether or not we can trust pharmacists to inform us about which multivitamins are best.
What Caused All This Confusion?
Misinformation (or even just 'confusing-information') sometimes has at least one culprit behind it. In this case, it's no different. I did some digging and here's what I found.
William Faloon is a well-known personality in the supplement industry (don't blame him, he's nice) and a man who adamantly defends the sale and availability of dietary supplements.
Faloon wrote an article in which he proposed that Big Pharmaceutical companies are to blame for all the negative press that multivitamins have been receiving.
Faloon believes Big Pharma spends money to spread biased information in order to increase their own profits.
I REALLY want to see the evidence for his claims but until I see it, I can not accept his words as fact.
This is why I bring up Faloon; even though he and I approached the same subject from two completely different perspectives, we do agree on the main point: Big Pharma has its dirty little hands all over this.
'Big Pharma' Is Becoming 'Big Supple'
I know, that header is nasty in many ways, but the nastiest of them all is that there is ample evidence to support the idea that pharmaceutical companies are getting deeply involved in the dietary supplement industry.
Consider the fact that the makers of Viagra also make Centrum and the makers of One-A-Day have around 100 OTC and prescription medications. It is quite clear that pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in dietary supplements.
And why wouldn't they? Their prescription medications have earned them a positive reputation among doctors and patients. They are considered trustworthy and their medications are effective so it only makes sense that these companies would want to profit from a similar but less regulated industry.
My point is as follows: I believe websites and doctors recommend Centrum and One A Day because those products are made by companies who have built up considerable amounts of trust.
Pfizer and Bayer are well-known names in hospitals, doctor's offices, and drug stores and so it makes sense that all their products would be accepted as worthy-to-be-sold, effective, and well-made. It has come about by a logical series of events. It is inevitable to think that pharmaceutical companies would rise to the top of the supplement industry.
It is sad to think that these powerful companies choose to make poor quality supplements that only exist as a source of profit instead of a source of health. This will become more clear as we move forward and take a detailed look at the toxins in multivitamins.
Harvard and Tufts Universities
Several of the websites I mentioned in my last article brought up Harvard and Tufts universities. None of them provided references for us to see what Harvard and Tufts actually say so I decided I would do the honors of reporting this information.
It may not surprise you to learn that Health.Harvard.edu has an excellent article regarding multivitamins in which they take a science-based and honest approach to the little pills.
The experts at Harvard do not definitively say whether or not to take a multivitamin (smart move). The authors of the article bring in various studies and lean on those studies heavily to make the point that you should be careful about what vitamins you choose to take. They recommend a healthy diet and seeking out a dietician for nutritional advice. (Spot on, Harvard!)
Tufts provides a fantastic transcript of several nutrition experts discussing multivitamins. It really is a great article and, just like Harvard, they use a science-based approach.
The experts at Tufts do not all agree on whether or not you should take a multivitamin. They discuss how someone's socio-economic standing may affect their nutritional needs and therefore their vitamin-supplements needs (A great point! As I will later discuss.). They DO make the point that a multivitamin is a not an excuse to eat unhealthily and they do not come to a definitive agreement on whether or not we should take a multivitamin.
I did some digging and found that a professor at Tufts took part in a wonderful study1 with the goal of learning about nutrient deficiencies in the Middle East and figuring out how to bring them dietary supplements. Bravo, Tufts professor! When it comes to malnourished populations and specific illnesses, I am 100% onboard with vitamin supplements.
It is important for us to understand whether or not we can turn to pharmacists for information on multivitamins.
Registered Pharmacists are perhaps the most knowledgeable individuals in the world when it comes to prescription medications; but, does that knowledge translate over to dietary supplements? No; it does not seem to translate over much at all.
US News sent out a survey and found that 50% of pharmacists who recommend multivitamins choose to recommend Centrum (not a good sign).
In addition to pharmacists recommending low-quality supplements, a study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Education2 discovered that pharmacists are generally lacking in knowledge on dietary supplements and their curricula may need to include more information on the subject.
According to a study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine3, almost all pharmacists are self-taught when it comes to dietary supplements and the internet is a main source of information.
Pharmacists are recommending poor quality supplements and lacking training on the subject. Even more concerning is that when they want information, many of them are going straight to the internet to get it. Sure, the internet is a great place to learn about some things but I hope it is becoming clear to you that multivitamins are not one of those things. Though, maybe all those pharmacists will find my website and inform themselves using real research! If that happened, I'd change my tagline to be, "Stern Healing: Changing the world one pharmacist at a time."
It is beginning to feel as though no one understands the bigger picture. Apart from being inconsistent, reviewers, Universities, news sites, and professional organizations all fail to warn us about the harmful ingredients in Centrum and other popular multivitamins. Perhaps no one knows about the dangers.
It is time for me to fill this void of information. The first article I write on this topic focuses on talc and asbestos. Afterwards, we take a look at the marketing lies and the harmful heavy metals.
1. 1: Hwalla N, Al Dhaheri AS, Radwan H, Alfawaz HA, Fouda MA, Al-Daghri NM, Zaghloul S, Blumberg JB. The Prevalence of Micronutrient Deficiencies and Inadequacies in the Middle East and Approaches to Interventions. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 3;9(3). pii: E229. doi: 10.3390 Review. PubMed PMID: 28273802
2. Axon, D. R., Vanova, J., Edel, C., & Slack, M. (2017). Dietary Supplement Use, Knowledge, and Perceptions Among Student Pharmacists. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 81(5), 92. http://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe81592
3. Nicole Howard, Candy Tsourounis, and Joan Kapusnik-Uner. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. July 2004, 7(6): 667-680. https://doi.org/10.1089/10755530152755225