Do you believe in magic? If you are a member of Freethought Dayton, the answer is most likely “no.” But a lot of people do believe in magical, mystical thinking. In his recent book, Do You Believe in Magic: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, Paul A. Offit, MD, examines the world of supplements, megavitamins, chelation therapy, and fear of vaccines.
Nutritional supplements are an unregulated, $34 billion per year industry. While a few studies indicated some alternative therapies are beneficial, evidence is piling up that other herbal supplements and megadoses of certain vitamins may actually be harmful, not helpful, to your health. Standardized medicine is certainly not immune to corrections, but when a drug is found to have deleterious effects, it can be pulled from the market due to federal regulations. This process is much more difficult or impossible in an unregulated industry.
Vitamins and supplements are often touted as “natural,” which in common usage is interpreted as “beneficial and harmless.” Dr. Offit relates a story of purchasing a bottle of “natural vitamin E”:
“On the back, it said “3333% of the RDA” (recommended daily allowance). That is 33 times the recommended daily allowance. This one capsule was about maybe half the size of an almond. Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E. You would have to eat 1650 almonds to get what was in that 1 capsule. How is that a natural thing to do?”
What do you think? Are supplements safe and harmless, or should they be regulated?
Watch the interview or read the transcript on Medscape.com here.
Check out the book here.