Article #2: Vitamins: A Quarter Billion Dollar Humbug by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
Perhaps nothing has done more to confuse the man on the street and, all too often, the doctor in his office, about what constitutes nutrition than the ballyhoo about vitamins. The trouble, be it understood, is not with vitamins, but with the commercial exploitation to which they and their imitations are being subjected. It is estimated that the American people are now spending a quarter of a billion dollars a year for “vitamins.” That’s a lot of money! America has become “vitamin conscious” and the gangsters who are responsible for thus duping the people are reaping rich harvests from the vitamin racket.
“Vitamins” are sold in the drugstores, department stores, grocery stores, five and ten cent stores, health food stores, and by mail. Every conceivable means of advertising them is employed and nobody seems to think that there can be any such thing as honesty in advertising. Anything goes in the advertising, if it sells “vitamins.”
The medical profession is not alone to blame for the exaggerations that are being peddled about vitamins. The manufacturers of the so-called vitamin preparations are chiefly to blame, while many medical men of high standing have dared to lift their voices in warning about the vitamin cure-all now being offered to the public.
Chiropractors, osteopaths, naprapaths, physiotherapists, naturopaths, dietitians, “health” lecturers, and similar cure-mongers and the “health food” stores have all played a very big part in promoting this vitamin racket. Various types of doctors prescribe and sell these things to their patients. It seems to be easier to prescribe (and sell) vitamin pills (perhaps, it is almost more profitable) than it is to find and remove cause.
Health food stores reap a rich harvest off the sale of vitamins. The men and women who run these stores, though rarely possessed of any knowledge of human ills and the proper care of the sick, and never making a proper inquiry into the conditions for which they prescribe, do not hesitate to prescribe vitamins for all who come into their stores looking for cures. The health food stores no longer sell healthful foods; they sell cures.
Vitamins have been promoted as cold preventives. Extensive experience together with careful tests have combined to show that vitamins do not prevent colds. What is the difference between taking vitamins to prevent colds and ignoring cause and taking cold vaccines to prevent colds and ignoring cause?
Vitamins have been promoted as cures for chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue may result from any one, or any combination of a number of, causes and any effort to cure the fatigue without removing its cause can only fail. This use of vitamins is identical in principle with the use of drugs.
Vitamins have been promoted as cures for arthritis. The hundreds of thousands of arthritis patients who have taken large quantities of vitamins and watched themselves grow worse are living testimonials of the failure of vitamins as a cure for arthritis. Vitamin D has especially been bally-hooed as a cure for arthritis. It has been used in huge doses. These have often given rise to toxic symptoms. This probably always makes the arthritis worse.
Vitamins have been promoted both as preventives and as cures for gray hair. They do neither. Those who have used them have been disappointed.
In a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Julian M. Ruffin and David Cayer, of Duke University, record details of an investigation conducted to determine the value of adding vitamin supplements to the usual American diet.
I think it is significant that the “usual American diet,” which is by no means an ideal diet, was used in this series of tests. Two hundred volunteer medical students and technicians were used in the tests. These volunteers were divided into five groups. They were all “in apparent good health” and were “consuming the usual American diet.” The tests were run for thirty days “because that period is found sufficient for recovery under vitamin treatment” of patients actually ill from vitamin deficiency.
- One group was given vitamin tablets and liver extract tablets.
- A second group was given yeast extract tablets and vitamin pills.
- The third group was given vitamin pills and a sugar pill made to resemble the others.
- The fourth group was given vitamin pills only.
- The fifth group was given sugar pills only.
None of the volunteers were permitted to know what was in the pills they were taking.
Each man kept a daily record of his weight and of such symptoms as “gas” and indigestion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Also, he kept a daily record of his impressions of any effect on his appetite and on his “pep” or energy.
Ruffin and Cayer report that a “significant increase in diarrhea and a highly significant increase in abdominal pain and nausea and vomiting occurred in those receiving liver extract and yeast.”
This effect of yeast is certainly no new find and I was not surprised that liver extract causes similar symptoms.
The experimenters at Duke University point out that “The use of vitamins is widespread throughout the
country, not only in the treatment of disease, but also by apparently normal persons” and state, as a conclusion based on the results of their own and other tests: “It has been implied that even when no demonstrable deficiency exists, one’s sense of well-being and ability to perform work can be improved greatly by the addition of vitamin supplements to the diet. There is at present no evidence to substantiate this point of view.”
Medical men are, and long have been, prescribing vitamin preparations (cod-liver oil, yeast, etc.), vitamin extracts and synthetic vitamins in all types of conditions and standing around in groups and cursing because the expected results have not been forthcoming.
No one claims that present methods of determining vitamin deficiencies are sufficiently delicate to reveal the earliest stages of deficiency. There is no reason why correct use of real vitamins in these undetectable incipient stages will not result in definite improvement in health and increase in energy.
What, then, is the trouble? It is evident to the careful student of nutrition that the trouble is not simple or singular, but complex and multiple.
First; the “vitamins” are only imitations. They are not genuine. Only fools expect these synthetic make-believes to produce results.
Second; they are not properly used. Vitamins do not produce energy. They do not put on weight. They are enzymes that enable the body to utilize proteins, carbohydrates, fats and minerals. The “usual American diet” is especially deficient in minerals. To add vitamins to such a diet and not add quantities of the deficient elements, and expect results, it to expect vitamins to work in a vacuum.
Results may be obtained by using real vitamins, as these exist in natural foods, and taking them along with the other food elements, as these, too, are found in these same natural foods. Better nutrition requires better food, not merely the addition of vitamins.
Need I describe the “usual American diet” of white bread, denatured cereals, white sugar, refined syrups, canned fruits and vegetables, jellies, jams, preserves, cakes, pies, candies, embalmed meats, pasteurized milk, coffee, beer and cigarettes, taken by these “apparently normal students and technicians?” Only an ignoramus would expect vitamins, even if they were real, to do anything with a diet like that.
Vitamin salesmen, vitamin manufacturers, vitamin con men of all grades, types and sizes are encouraging people to buy and take vitamins. They do not encourage people to revolutionize their eating practices. “Science” in an illegitimate union with commercialism is responsible for flooding the world with the deluge of lies that bewilder, confuse and mislead the poor man on the street and the ignorant doctor in his office.
- 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