A pediatrician who spent years defending childhood vaccines against the likes of actress/activist Jenny McCarthy has launched an assault on megavitamins and dietary supplements.
“If you take large quantities of vitamin A, vtamin E, beta carotene [or] selenium you increase your risk of cancer, risk of heart disease, and you could shorten your life,” says Dr. Paul Offit, a researcher at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The good thing here is, he has actual training in this field, unlike a certain eldest son I could mention.
One big problem with dietary supplements is a 1994 law that exempts them from the tighter scrutiny the FDA applies to its regulation of medicines, Offit says. So the makers of a garlic supplement can say that it “supports cardiovascular health” even though a government study found that garlic supplements didn’t lower cholesterol. Meanwhile, Offit says, patients clearly benefit from a range of FDA-approved statin drugs that actually do what garlic supplements claim to do.
I remember the lobbying for that law. Every time I wandered into a health foods store I would see 47 signs and notices shouting about the horror of regulation of dietary supplements. The forces of No Information Please won that fight: makers of supplements get to say any old bullshit, which consumers believe, because they know the gummint wouldn’t allow anybody to tell lies on packaging.
Offit says doctors are partly to blame for the growing popularity of high-dose vitamins and other dietary supplements. Rather than pushing back against patients who want to take them, he says, doctors have acted like waiters at a restaurant, simply asking, “What would you like?”
Many hospitals also include unproved dietary supplements in their list of medicines available to patients, Offit says. But he says his own institution, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, plans to remove nearly all supplements from its list later this month.
Offit says his attack on dietary supplements has generated a steady stream of hate mail. But he says it’s not as harsh as the hate mail he used to get from people who believe vaccines cause autism. “This is more, I’m ‘a liar and a shill for the pharmaceutical industry,’ ” he says, “not, ‘You’re going to hell.’ “
We need an official scale for hate mail.