4. The Supplementalists
The supplemental school of nutrition has three categories of supporters: 1) Vocal spokesmen who seek to attract a following; 2) Magazines and publications that cater to advertisers and the supplement industry; and 3) Health food stores and manufacturers of the supplements. While it is nonproductive to engage in name calling and finger pointing, you should be aware of the different approaches taken by these supporters of the supplement approach to good health.
4.1 Writers That Aren’t Right
Every few years, a new spokesman for the supplement school of nutrition arrives at the newsstands with the same message for the masses: Swallow more pills for better health. The message may be worked differently; it may be couched in new seductive phrases such as “super-nutrition” or “therapeutic nutrients” or “meganutrition,” but the point is always the same: Continue with your poor dietary habits, but take a magical supplement and your problems will disappear.
They write about “megavitamins,” “magic minerals,” and “longevity enzymes.” They promise you salvation in a bottle and relief in a vitamin store. They quote miraculous cures effected by exotic nutritional additives and pills. And they make money selling their books and articles to an eager public that is nutritionally naive.
4.2 A Supplement Proponent
Perhaps no sadder testimony to the ineffectiveness and dangers of pill-gulping can be found than from the words of a woman known worldwide for her recommendations of daily supplements: Adelle Davis.
Mrs. Davis was a well-known and outspoken proponent of the supplemental school of nutrition. Her book Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit sold several million copies and it is full of recommendations for various supplements, pills, extracts, and other nonfood substances. When asked by an individual what her daily dietary routine is like, the woman responded:
“For years I have taken after breakfast a capsule containing 25,000 units of vitamin A and 2,500 units of vitamin D, both from fish-liver oil; 200 or 300 units of vitamin E or d-alpha tocopherol acetate distilled from soy oil; a tablet containing 5 milligrams of iodine taken daily, and 500 milligrams or more of vitamin C. With my other meals, I also take three tablets of calcium combined with magnesium, and sometimes another tablet of magnesium oxide alone to balance the calcium in the milk I drink. If I’ve eaten salty food, I add another three tablets or more of potassium chloride, 180 milligrams each. Besides yeast and liver, I also take with each meal two B-complex vitamins.”
The woman was taking about 20 to 30 pills every day of her life. “People frequently asked me how long they should take supplements,” Adelle Davis wrote. “I am tempted to tell them, ‘Until you get tired of good health.'” The woman concluded her discussion of nutrition with the statement: “I expect to take supplements as long as I live, though I wish I might get all nutrients from foods.”
Adelle Davis did indeed take supplements as long as she lived—until she died of cancer.
Adelle Davis was not alone; other active promoters and writers who have ballyhobed the marvelous effects to be gained from supplements, pills, and potions have also enjoyed poor health and premature death. Quite frankly, the success or failure of a nutritional school of thought should be gauged only by the health or sickness of its proponents and spokesmen. The supplement school of nutrition has had a dismal history in this respect.
4.3 A Catalog of Pills and Supplements
Today there are about a half dozen magazines and a score of popular periodicals that consistently promote the use of supplements in their pages. Their pages are so full of ads and come-ons for supplements that they appear to be nothing more than catalogs of wonder drugs. And these magazines exist for one reason:
Money. The majority of advertising in these “health” magazines comes from supplement and vitamin manufacturers. Do you expect to see an honest article that exposes the dangers and shortcomings of supplements in a magazine that is full of paid ads for these pills? Of course not. The truth is that for many of these health-oriented publications, their major financial support comes from companies who want to sell the public pills and capsules.
Quite often these magazines will publish articles that actively promote a specific nutrient, say zinc for example. You can be sure that in that same issue there will be full-page ads offering zinc supplements and pills. Could this be merely coincidence?
These magazines work hand in hand with the supplement industry. They create the perceived need for supplements, and the manufacturers offer you the promised cure-all—all in the same magazine and almost on the same page. If this doesn’t strike you as a little too fortuitous, then you are indeed a great idealist.
4.4 The Pill Store
Have you been inside a typical ‘”health food” store lately? You’ll probably see very little “food”‘ or indeed even “health,” but you’ll certainly get an eyeful of bottle after bottle of vitamins, minerals, supplements, and other exotic potions.
And that’s not loo surprising at all, especially when you consider that 40 to 50% of a health food store’s profits comes from the sale of supplements.
“Vitamins, minerals and other diet supplements are my bread and butter, an owner of a small health food store confided to me. “I can mark up each bottle about 250 to 300% over what I pay for it. They have an indefinite shelf life; they can’t go bad like produce, and I can usually sell one person about $25 to $40 worth at one swoop.”
“I can’t really prescribe these pills and supplements to my customers—that’s against the law—but I can tell them how Mrs. Such-and-Such bought a bottle and how it helped her. You know, that kind of thing. I act people coming in here all the time looking for some miracle vitamin that’s going to cure all their ills. I don’t sell supplements: I sell hope to sick people. Maybe they help, maybe they don’t. I don’t think they’re any worse off.”
But of course they are worse off. They’ve spent good money on useless products, and, even worse, they do nothing to change the conditions that brought about their health problems in the first place. Health food stores may not practice deception, but you could hardly call them a service to their customers who purchase the supplements and vitamin pills.
The health food stores are not the villains in this tale of supplements. The people who are really making money from the supplement scam are the manufacturers and suppliers of these pills and potions. Consider this: That $5.95 bottle of multiple vitamins that you bought probably has about 20 cents worth of chemicals in it. The huge profits from the sale of these pills are plowed back into advertising and promotion to get you to buy even more bottles of chemicals and supplements.
The supplement market operates on a tremendous profit margin and markup. The industry is unpoliced and relatively unregulated. For example, vitamins and mineral supplements marked “natural” and “organic” may legitimately contain only 10% of its elements from natural sources; the remaining 90% could be the selfsame chemicals sold in any other brand.
Be wary of any school of nutrition that promotes products for profit. You may be sold a false bill of goods.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. The Supplement Approach To Nutrition
- 3. The Appeal Of The Supplement School
- 4. The Supplementalists
- 5. The Only Safe Source Of Nutrients
- 6. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: The Great Supplement Hoax! By T.C. Fry
- Article #2: Vitamins: A Quarter Billion Dollar Humbug By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #3: Are 90% or More of the Vitamins You Take Going Down the Drain? By T.C. Fry
- Article #4: Resolving the Issue of Supplementation By Drs. Robert and Elizabeth McCarter
- Article #5: The Minerals of Life By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton