Please Explain: Vitamin Supplements

Friday, February 27, 2009

It may seem like common knowledge that taking vitamins is good for you, but over the last few years several studies have failed to show that vitamin supplements help prevent chronic disease or prolong life. In fact, things like vitamin C, can actually help cancer cells grow. We’ll be joined by New York Times Health Columnist Tara Parker-Pope and Dr. Gery Deng of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Integrative Medical Services.


Dr. Gery Deng and Tara Parker-Pope

Comments [40]

Memory Supplements That Work

I think the supplements give good results if you take them in addition to a good diet.


Feb. 05 2010 12:37 AM
Kym from Brooklyn

Diane from Riverdale - I would love to hear more from you and your experiences.

Mar. 13 2009 12:13 PM
vitamin supplements from nyc

vitamin e is a key antioxidant which supports healthy heart function. maintains healthy nerves and muscles while strengthening capillary walls. promotes healthy shin and hair selenium works closely with vitamin in some of its metabolic actions and in the promotion of healthy growth and fertility.

Mar. 01 2009 12:30 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

Did Mr. Lopate just accuse people who choose to take vitamins of "operating as a medical practitioner without a license"?
What a stupid comment.

The argument about how much money the vitamin industry makes is meaningless without putting it into its proper context.

A bottle of Trader Joe Vitamin C (100 capsules) costs me $3.00. How many drugs, over the counter or prescription, put out by the mega-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry can make that statement. The drug industry stands to gain a lot more by keeping people sick than by preventing them from getting sick.

As a diabetic vegetarian, I do need supplements and I will continue to take my B-complex, vitamin C, and others. I rather spend my money on the potential preventative care than have to deal with any tremendous costs further down the line.

It's also amusing how critics of vitamins always claim that "successful" users are those who either take better care of themselves anyway or that the benefits stated are all in their minds.

Mar. 01 2009 09:38 AM
andygoodman from New York, NY

I find it funny that one of the guests, who is a JOURNALIST and not a researcher dominated the conversation with opinions that are based on cherry-picked poorly designed studies and surveys. Here's an interesting link regarding the said reporter:

Feb. 28 2009 04:49 AM
Sam C from NYC


I take lot of vitamins, I spend close to $400 every three months. I must say, I love to eat, I eat lot and at the same time I go to gym all the time, I workout and running, some time I play racketball. Now I am really confused... maybe I don't need to spend $400 every three month.

Feb. 27 2009 11:32 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

anonyme from ny,

I share the same cynicism as you with regulated anything. But I’m far more cynical towards the vitamin industry that can make any claim they want, doesn’t have to show or prove their product is safe (unless several people die or get really sick using their product), does not have to conduct any independently conducted clinical trails. They can sell a bottle full of asbestos, tell you it’s a natural supplement and you’ll never be the wiser until you die of cancer 30 years later. What other industry in America exists with such freedom? Why should I trust them when they have yet to prove any of their products really work? I’ll stick to my carrots and broccoli… They might be tainted with pesticides but at least I know a carrot is a carrot and broccoli is broccoli …

Feb. 27 2009 04:16 PM
Rene Lape from Huntington, NY

After arriving at the age of 60 and worrying about my memory I went to a neurologist who suggested I take a variety of anti-oxidents, vitamins and melatonin. After hearing the program this morning I worried that I may be taking too many things. How can anyone know? I eat very well and exercise and am generally healthy but might I be doing more damage than good????

Feb. 27 2009 04:03 PM
anonyme from ny

If you all scratch a little you will see that every "regulated" industry works just like the financial industry - it is a revolving door between industry jobs and regulator jobs. Therefore just about every bit of info suits one agenda or anoterh, does not serve us, is suspect! - And the way it's distorted by the time it gets to us - oy!

Feb. 27 2009 03:41 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Jill from Manhattan,

I think you hit the nail right on the head, you’d rather get them from food then a supplement. I agree with you 100%.

I had read that vitamin B6 was good for carpal tunnel syndrome which I have. I took the largest safest dose I could (10,000 times the daily recommended allowance!!!) and it did absolutely nothing. Nor did it have any benefits that vitamin B6 is supposed to be so good for. I have tried taking multi vitamins in the past and noticed no benefits or changes in my overall health. Like I said, you hit it right on the nose. I to try to get most of my nutrition from non fortified food sources and without any supplements and yet I still manage to stay healthy…

Feb. 27 2009 02:56 PM
Jill from Manhattan

Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ:

Vegans can get omega fatty acids from walnuts and flax seeds. I would rather get them from food than a supplement, so this isn't a direct answer to your question. Flax seed should be ground (ideally done at home before eating to preserve freshness--use a coffee grinder) or you can use flax seed oil. Eat walnuts whole or as oil.

Feb. 27 2009 02:37 PM
Chris from Livingston, NJ

It was said on the show that vitamin C only reduces a 72 hour cold by 5 hours, therefore why bother. But when I have a cold, even an extra hour of relief would be worth it to me. You can accomplish quite a lot in 5 hours! Plus, if there is ANY small benefit, doesn't that prove that it is doing something good?

Feb. 27 2009 02:33 PM
Helen from Bernardsville, NJ

I have taken vitamin E for breast pain associated with hormonal cycles for several years and it totally eliminated it. This was suggested by my gyno. I would have loved to have a chance to ask the guests what they think about amino acid treatment of depression rather than taking SSRIs like Paxil, Welbutrin or Cymalta. I have seen people get off these drugs with the amino acids and then get off them to live life free of depression or drug therapies. I wish you would have made this program a little longer!

Feb. 27 2009 02:23 PM
Robert Bach from

There are recent studies proving that high dose vitamin C (intravenous) reduces tumors.

Feb. 27 2009 02:17 PM
Ivana from Yorkville

I trust that my 70% raw food plant-based diet will provide me with everything I need.

However, until proven otherwise I plan to continue to take food-sourced supplements from New Chapter and some other brands that are not synthetic. I've always suspected synthetics, the body doesn't doesn't absorb or recognize them like it does food. I also take various herbal supplements, preferably from organically grown sources, though I am concerned about quality control.

Feb. 27 2009 02:14 PM
Paula B from Chappaqua, NY

I just heard a woman caller on the show describe how supplements have alleviated her chronic asthma, severe allergies and excema in her daughter, if I recall correctly. I am very interested in what nutrional supplements she took. If she is reading this comment I would so appreciate her input! And thank you so much in advance.
I have been taking 500mg supplements of Vit.C for over 35 years and rarely ever catch a cold. When I run out of it because I just haven't gotten to the pharmacy , I start feeling a sore throat and my voice starts getting hoarse. After I resume the Vitamin C but take it 3x a day I get rid of the symptoms. This has been going on for years.I always caught my children's colds when they were young until I read of, of course, Linus Paulings findings and began the regimin describd above.
I have also added echanacia when the symptoms begin and I presume that that has had a beneficial effect as well.

Feb. 27 2009 02:06 PM

2 notes:

1. Smokers should NOT, NOT, NOT take Vitamin E. Studies have found it can be mildly helpful to nonsmokers, but large doses of E are apparently damaging to smokers.

2. We can all thank Sen. Orrin Hatch for the complete non-regulation of these products.

Feb. 27 2009 01:59 PM
Diana from NYC

I´ve taken cold-eeze and it really helps me with a cold and to prevent throat infection -most of the time. I tried taking just plain zinc, but it did not have any effect.

Feb. 27 2009 01:51 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Gary from NYC, how do vegans take omaga fatty acids in pill format since it comes from fish?

Feb. 27 2009 01:51 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

The last caller, Vitamin industry has no police. They don’t have to prove anything. They don’t even have to prove what’s in the bottle is actually what they say it is. So how can you trust anyone in the vitamin industry? Pure profit with no proof….

Feb. 27 2009 01:45 PM
anonyme from ny

My sister is a doctor who announced this war decades ago - why not talk about misrepresentation and distortion of data?

I don't trust the studies!!! What does it mean "vitamin c" - lab vitamin c is not food vitamin c

Feb. 27 2009 01:45 PM

I was prescribed mega doses of vitamins by an homeopatic doctor. I was taking them for a month, since then I developed kidney problems. I prefer to eat well and healthy than taking vitamin suplements.

How about colostrum suplements? any studies?

Feb. 27 2009 01:42 PM
gary g from NYC

your guest , tara parker-pope is rather narrow minded,
need omega fatty acids , just eat fish twice a week, does she not know that there are many vegans among your listeners.. what a twit..

Feb. 27 2009 01:40 PM
mel from brooklyn

the doctor said one should exercise everyday. what is currently considered the required amount of daily exercise?

Feb. 27 2009 01:40 PM
Cynthia from Philipstown

What about vitamins for children? All our grandchildren take vitamins daily. They are young and some of them don't care for fruits and vegetables very much.

Feb. 27 2009 01:40 PM
Matt from NYC

I always show these studies to my Dad who takes a large amount of vitamins. He always comes back with studies that say the opposite. He also claims that the studies that show vitamins to be ineffective in preventing disease or extending life to not use the correct type of or high-enough quality of vitamins. Can you speak about studies that seem to show vitamins to be effective? Are they not to be trusted? I will note that most of those studies seem to be done by and published in magazines that *sell* their own line of vitamins.

Feb. 27 2009 01:35 PM
Celia from Brooklyn

It's true that supplements might not prevent disease, but they sure help me control pain!

I have very painful periods that are controlled by calcium and vitamin B taken all month. I suffer much more painful periods the cycles I don't take supplements.

Please explain!

Feb. 27 2009 01:34 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

If foods fortified with vitamins actually did any good then according to the side of a Captn’ crunch box, if I ate just four bowls a day, I should be healthy as can be because I should be getting most if not all my essential vitamins and minerals. I don’t think you’ll find a nutritionist worth a grain of salt that would advise that you could survive off of just cereal. So if fortified vitamins are just a joke then how could supplements even remotely work? How come the vitamin industry can claim whatever they want and not have to prove a thing with independent clinical trials?

Feb. 27 2009 01:31 PM

i exclusively breastfed my baby and my doctor was always telling me to give her vitamin d supplements. you mentioned the recent problem with rickets. i felt that walking around the neighborhood in the summer time she was getting plenty of sunshine to help her body absorb calcium. was that wrong? i have friends with infants now in the same boat.

Feb. 27 2009 01:27 PM
john from east village

Vitamin supplements are one of the biggest gimmicks in the health and fitness industry, and vitamin and mineral supplements do nothing to enhance athletic performance.
It’s rare that Americans come down with a vitamin or mineral deficiency. On the other hand, over eating is the biggest form of malnutrition in the US.

Americans have the most expensive urine in the world.

Feb. 27 2009 01:20 PM
J M from New York City

After years of taking calcium supplements recommended by my gynecologist, I developed kidney stones ... Now, I'm afraid to take any vitamins.

Feb. 27 2009 01:20 PM
Rob from Brooklyn

I'm leaving to hike the Appalachian Trail in a few weeks, and I plan to send myself multivitamins to supplement my diet. Is there any evidence that multivitamins have a positive affect on people who don't have access to fresh fruits and vegetables (such as when you're hiking for upwards of six months)?

Feb. 27 2009 01:19 PM
john from soho

i take dr. schulze superfood plus.

its a powder form and you mix with water.

anyone have an opinion about it?

Feb. 27 2009 01:12 PM
ann m from manhattan

I need to give my children iron supplements. Otherwise their iron would be too low.

Feb. 27 2009 01:12 PM
David Blaustein from Live in Clinton Hill Brooklyn

My oncologist William Grace Jr., at St. Vincents, whose treatment put me in remission, has a lot of bad things to say about Vitamin C as well. He asked me not to use any vitamin supplements during chemo especially as they would interfere with the damage that chemo was designed to do.

Feb. 27 2009 12:58 PM
anonyme from ny

great info source for food sources of nutrients -

Feb. 27 2009 12:37 PM
anonyme from ny

It isn't just "vitamins!" or the new, annoying, "pharmaceutical grade vitamins" - vitamins are nutrients taht come in food, which means in context - and their absorption hs to do with their context! (acerola is full of c in its context - instead of vitamin c for example)

Also you have to search for good supplements - it isn't jsut "cod liver oil" for vitamin d - you have to find viable, high vitamin clo from fish that weren't farmed in oil that isn't rancid...

pill popping doesn't do the job!

Feb. 27 2009 12:33 PM
Peter from Brooklyn

What about the recent Cambridge U. study linking vitamin D deficiency with an increased risk for dementia? According to the 2/23/09 NY Times, the lead physician said that while a vitamin D deficiency does not cause dementia, taking a vitamin D supplement may play an important role in prevention. Please explain.

Feb. 27 2009 12:20 PM
sr from NJ

does taking calcium 600mg every day actually prevent bone lose, or osteoporosis as my physician suggests. an acquaintance has been taking vitamin E and calcium for decades and still ended up with arthritis and osteoporosis at 60.
please explain!

Feb. 27 2009 11:26 AM
Diane from Riverdale, NY

There is logic to your statement, but it is incomplete. If you take a pill with potassium for example, and your potassium is alreay normal it does not aid in promoting health. If your potssium levels are high, adding more can even be harmful. Yes, vitamin C can sustain cell health, but it includes promoting the health of cancerous cells. In my case, as you would with any prescription medicine, I went to a physician (Dr. Ronald Hoffman) who did extensive bloodwork to determine which nutrients were lacking or not utilized specific to my body. I am 80 years old this year. I wear size 12, swim laps several times each week, take no prescription medications with inherent side effects, but do take almost a dozen vitamins and minerals each day as prescribed by my doctor.
A Doctor Christine Northup (I believe) and others also do this kind of analysis to balance depleted hormones in women who suffer with menopause to the point of not living a normal life.
If you are talking about taking a multi-vitamin of unknown manufacturing procedures each day, you are right. But with more extensive attention to the individual, great help can be given.

Feb. 27 2009 10:18 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.