Vitamin safety is a bit of a hot subject. Numeous stories have appeared in the popular press over recent weeks and months about the safety (or otherwise) of vitamins and other nutritional products. By these accounts you'd think that vitamins and their nutritional "colleagues" were super-dangerous, addictive poisons that cause damage to untold millions every year. So what is the truth? And why the scare stories?
Vitamins (and other nutritional supplements) are one of the few true medical success stories of the last few decades. Whilst ever more complex "treatments" (i.e. symptom relief) for common diseases are peddled by the pharmaceutical industry and their obliging "salesmen" in Doctors surgeries and hospitals, increasing numbers of us have been inconveniencing them by NOT getting ill, thanks (amongst other things) to appropriate supplementation.
Whilst this is good for us, it doesn't sell medicines, which upsets the pharmaceutical giants and their shareholders (is it REALLY our "health" they are interested in?).
Consequently, we hear ever more elaborate scare stories about "vitamin safety" designed to convince us that "Vitamin C causes cancer" or some other such PR effort. The purpose of these stories is to stop us using supplements and make sure we go to the doctor's for a good old prescription when we get ill.
So, how do these "dangerous" vitamins stack up against prescription drugs?
Well, medical sources themselves show just how "safe" pharmaceutial drugs are. In the US alone, there are over 106,000 deaths every year from properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, taken as directed.(1,2) In addition to these, approximately another 150,000 people will die very year as a result of other medical blunders, making deaths caused by Doctors one of the leading causes (some would say THE leading cause) of death in the USA. (3) These include:
80,000 as a result of hospital-acquired infections
20,000 through medical "mistakes"
12,000 killed by unnecessary surgery (this doesn't inlude those who die through "necessary" surgery).
7,000 deaths as a result of medication "errors".
Given the attacks on vitamin safety by doctors, the press and even the Government, you would expect that the safety of vitamins is correspondingly dire - hundreds of thousands of dead, maimed and injured every year at least. Worried?
Brace yourself......according to official Government statistics, vitamin safety is SO bad that the average number of people killed every year by vitamins is......
Are you sitting down?
Not even ONE!(4)
Vitamins DO NOT KILL.
So why the scare stories?
The answer is simple.
Medical education, medical prescribing and medical research are controlled by generous grants from the pharmaceutical industry (we're talking $billions here!), supported by massive Government lobbying and the dubious connections between Government and the industry. (Doubtful? Look up what happened when Searle CEO Donald Rumsfeld became head of the FDA under Bush senior - all of a sudden the company's several-times rejected sweetener, aspartame, got rubber stamped in less than a week!)
Consequently, the pharmaceutical industry has been trying to work out how to make a profit from vitamins for years. But how? Vitamins cannot be patented, allowing the usual 20 years of monopoly at exorbitant prices. Also, there are several VERY large vitamin manufacturers out there already with mature, satisfied markets.
As a result, Doctors are taught virtually nothing about nutrition, they are trained that the ONLY question when confronted with an ill patient is WHICH drug to give them. In short, vitamins are a threat to the status quo.
The answer: Ridicule.
Faced with REAL competition for the first time, medics and their pharmaceutical partners combine to pile false accusations of ineffectiveness and danger on the therapies they don't control. Vitamin safety is brought into question without a shred of evidence to support the accusations and consumers are deprived of the safe supplements they have taken for decades.
More worryingly, the Governmental lobbying is having an effect. In Europe, the pharmaceutical companies have succeeded in pushing through an illegal EU directive that hands the control of vitamins and other supplements over to them, in the process allowing them to increase prices exponentially.
This is a first step to instigate such a policy WorldWide, with the USA as the next stop-off point.
In short, vitamins are safe. We KNOW vitamins are safe, YOU know vitamins are safe, the pharmaceutical industry knows vitamins are safe and the Government knows vitamins are safe.
Doctors don't know ANYTHING about vitamins! (with a few notable exceptions)
If you want to protect your right to use safe, effective vitamins, minerals and other supplements, you MUST fight these actions. Join the campaign for truth in medicine and fight the European directive - it wil inevitably lead to similar laws in the USA.
(1) Lucian Leape, Error in medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1994, 272:23, p 1851.
(2) Leape LL. Institute of Medicine medical error figures are not exaggerated. JAMA. 2000 Jul 5;284(1):95-7.)
(3) Starfield, B. JAMA. 2000 (July 26): 284, 4
(4) American Association of Poison Control Centers' Toxic Exposure Surveillance System
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