Dear Mark: Are Supplements Useless?

VitaminsIt’s December 2013, which means it’s time for another round of popular news articles proclaiming “supplements are useless and maybe even dangerous.” This time they’re based on a recent editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements” in which the authors looked at (some of) the research on vitamin and mineral supplementation and prevention of various ailments. Understandably, I got a bunch of emails from people worried that their supplements were useless or might even be hurting them. Let’s look at one of them and see what people are saying:

I thought Mark might want to write a post on this article:

Multivitamin researchers say “case is closed” after studies find no health benefits



Hear that? The “case is closed.” Or not.

One of the papers the authors examined was pulled from the Physicians’ Health Study II (PHSII), a long-running study of nearly 15,000 US doctors at least 50 years of age or older. Researchers have run a number of studies using this data, mostly examining how taking supplements (either a Centrum Silver multivitamin, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, placebo, or some combination thereof) affected various end points like cancer, cardiovascular disease, visual decline, or cognitive decline. The study the authors of the editorial chose to examine looked at the effect of multivitamins on cognitive decline and memory. Turns out multivitamin intake had no effect on cognitive decline or memory when compared to placebo.

Of course, even if multivitamins have no effect on cognitive health it doesn’t say anything about other health conditions. Just last year, a study using the same PHSII data found a beneficial effect on cancer incidence from multivitamin use, with daily multivitamin use predicted a moderate but significant reduction in overall cancer risk, particularly in men with a history of cancer. And although an early PHSII study on cardiovascular disease found no overall effect, multivitamins did reduce the risk of fatal myocardial infarction (your basic heart attack). I’d wager that most people are highly interested in avoiding heart attacks that kill them. Wouldn’t you?

That’s actually pretty impressive when you consider that Centrum Silver is a cheap, relatively low-quality, poorly absorbed multivitamin. That Centrum Silver is a known quantity and inexpensive makes it a good candidate for large trials, but a poor candidate for someone interested in improving their nutrient status when there are so many better options are on the market.

You also have to consider the population studied and how that impacts the effect of a supplement. How do the male doctors included in PHSII differ from other types of people?

According to the latest research (much of it culled from the PHSII), male physicians are a generally healthy bunch. They tend to be wealthier and better-educated than average, which usually results in better health and a greater life expectancy. They rarely smoke, drink, or do (illicit) drugs. They’re thinner than most and rarely suffer from obesity-related diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They have higher cholesterol than average men, which could actually be a good thing depending on how high it actually is and which lipids are responsible for the elevated readings. High cholesterol could also be a function of access to health care; other Americans may be “free” of high cholesterol simply because they’ve never had it checked. They drink a lot of coffee, which is a great source of antioxidants and has been consistently linked to better health outcomes.

In other words, doctors are starting from a healthier spot than the rest of us. They have less ground to make up. Their diets are less likely to leave them vitamin or mineral deficient, and multivitamins are less likely to have an effect on the vitamin and mineral replete.

You’ll notice that supplement critics usually sneak in an important qualifier that drastically changes the context: “nutrient deficiencies.” As in, “multivitamins may be helpful in combating vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but those are incredibly rare in today’s food environment.” They seem to assume that because so many people are overweight or obese, they couldn’t possibly be missing anything because they’re eating plenty of food to cover their bases. Is it really so rare to have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, though? Are Americans and other people from industrialized nations really eating healthy, nutrient-rich diets? I’m not so sure. Just look around at the way people eat. Obesity doesn’t mean nutrient-replete. An immense macronutrient intake doesn’t ensure a high micronutrient diet if you’re eating modern, industrial foods designed to taste good. Most homeless people I see are sadly overweight, but they overwhelmingly suffer from nutrient deficiencies just the same.

People may not be dying of pellagra or beriberi or getting scurvy or rickets (well, maybe rickets) in industrialized nations, but that doesn’t preclude deficiencies. The true face of modern nutritional deficiency is a subtle one that sneaks up on you and saps at your health over the long term.

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, which the authors acknowledge. We’re either actively avoiding the sun, using sunscreen at the slightest hint of it, or spending most of our hours indoors. Vitamin D supplementation lowers the risk of falls in susceptible populations (high doses only; lower doses weren’t very effective), reduces body fat, and lowers the risk of fractures (in case you do fall). It and prenatal folic acid were the only supplements given the green light.

Magnesium deficiency is epidemic, too, with a number of factors negatively affecting a person’s serum magnesium levels, including high stress, sweating, alcohol intake, a low selenium intake, and low vitamin D. The biggest factor in magnesium deficiency, though, is inadequate intake, either from poor diets, soft, low-mineral drinking water, or depleted soils.

Should people not obtain more of those nutrients, either through lifestyle modification (diet, sun) or supplementation, if they are deficient? After all, magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve beta cell function in diabetics, insulin sensitivity in non-diabetics and type 2 diabetics, and blood pressure in people with low magnesium status.

And multivitamins themselves have had positive effects. Three recent clinical trials (AREDSAREDS2, and LAST) found that specifically-formulated multivitamins can help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Multivitamin supplementation can also positively impact fertilitypsychological health (mood, perceived stress which is really just stress in the end), and neural efficiency. The problem is that the endpoints that supplementation seems to undoubtedly help aren’t cancer or cardiovascular disease. Improved insulin sensitivity and lower body fat, better vision and lower stress are all well and good, but they aren’t sexy clinical endpoints with the impact of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease. A “lower risk of fractures and falls” doesn’t make headlines.

There are also nutrients that are difficult to obtain from food alone. Take vitamin K2, which can be found in natto (slimy fermented soybeans), goose liver, and gouda, but not in the amounts shown to be protective or restorative in clinical trials. Supplements will help fill in the blanks.

You know, I actually have no beef with the title of the editorial. People absolutely should not be wasting money on mineral and vitamin supplements they don’t need. That’s just common sense. Where we differ is how to define a wasteful supplement. They think all supplements qualify. I don’t. You can find plenty of evidence showing that supplementation of certain nutrients is unhelpful, harmful, or barely helpful in nutrient-replete, healthy populations. You can find plenty of evidence showing that smart supplementation of certain nutrients is extremely helpful or even life-saving in other groups. So-called skeptics love pointing to the former as resounding evidence that supplementation is pointless for everyone. More reasonable folks naturally see the totality of evidence as supportive of a more nuanced position: some supplements are good for some people, some are bad for some people, some are good for most.

Talking about “this study” or “that study” invalidating (or universally validating) the consumption of supplements is ridiculous. Specific supplements work in specific cases. Multivitamins can be helpful for certain conditions, particularly if you eat a poor diet, or they can be mostly useless. Supplement quality matters, too. There’s a lot of research to parse when it comes to evaluating the worthiness of supplements, too much for nice neat headlines – or even two page articles.

What do you think, folks? Be sure to share your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading. Take care and Grok on!

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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59 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Are Supplements Useless?”

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  1. I always find it interesting on how the media takes the most attention grabbing part of the study and just runs with it. But I do agree with with that supplements we don’t need simply are a waste of money, and if we don’t want to waste money, we need to actually do what it takes to find out which supplements we do need.

  2. I eat healthy and take vitamins to fill the void. Vitamins are cheap enough (even the best of the them) to take regardless of the study. Am really are the extra vitamins and minerals going to hurt anything? I’m all for the results of a study but when the day is done, I have to make my own decisions.

    Verdict for me is I’ll continue taking them! My life is just better with a full tank of magnesium and D!

  3. What about the article on the front page of the Sunday, December 22 edition of the New York Times which said that supplementation is dangerous because of the lack of oversight? The article stated that some people are seriously harmed by supplements, and their example was a teenager who took green tea extract that permanently harmed his liver. I take some supplements such as Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2 and magnesium, but how do we know that the products we buy actually contain what they say they do, or even worse, that they aren’t filled with contaminants like heavy metals?

    1. Search for “supplements” on He has a couple if really good podcasts and/or articles on that.

      1. Thank you for pointing out that site — it’s really good!

    2. We don’t. The supplement industry isn’t FDA regulated (which BTW I don’t think is a good idea). You have to take the manufacturer’s word for it. Don’t be a stupid consumer. Personally, I think supplements are not a good investment and for the most part just end up in the toilet anyway. Literally.

    3. Unfortunately Tai Chi Gal that’s applicable to most things we consume in this modern economy. Unless you make it yourself you really don’t know what your getting yourself into. It’s kind of scary when you think about it! We also don’t know the back story of these people – who they got the supplements from, what doses they were taking, if they were on other medicine or had a pre-existing health problem that could exacerbate the issue, etc. I also want to point out that the teen was taking a weight loss supplement – very different, IMO, from a nutritional supplement designed to replace or increase certain nutrients. Weight-loss supplements and other quick fixes are scary business – I don’t understand how people still take them! People looking for short cuts like this can and do end up like the kid did. There are also plenty of prescription drugs that cause the same issues and they are supposedly regulated and tested for safety. Long story short all you can do is research your products as thoroughly as possible and try and get them from credible sources

      1. I think you’re right about needing to do research on the food and supplements we take. I’m getting pretty good at the food part — buying beef from a local farmer and joining a CSA — but I need to look more into who is making my supplements.

      2. I agree about prescription medicines causing problems. Here’s a link to about prescription medicine and hospital problems that should scare everyone.

        And here’s a link, again, from, to an article about the safety of vitamins versus prescription drugs.

        Just go to and start looking around if you are concerned about vitamin safety.

        I developed exercise induced angina about 5 years ago. A cardiologist prescribed a beta blocker, a statin, and spray nitroglycerin. I did not fill the prescriptions. I read Dr. Shute’s book on vitamin E (he was a cardiologist) and Linus Pauling’s book on vitamin C. I take those in large doses along with some others and three good multi-vitamin, mulit-mineral pills a day. My angina got a whole lot bettter. I can now exercise like I did prior to developing this condition, including uphill sprints… at age 66.

  4. I only trust a couple vitamin companies. Synergy has all organic, whole foods supplements. Very pricey stuff, but the real deal. NOW brand is OK as is Jarrow. I believe synthetic vitamins and minerals are not good for us at all. I’m a C, D Magnesium and occasional protein powder guy myself.

  5. The editorial also recommends “Beans” and “Low-fat dairy” . Thats a good demonstration of their awareness of the nutrient landscape.

    But the article is a good for a few reasons:
    -You shouldn’t be wasting your money on something that doesn’t do what it claims.
    ( I don’t take supplements to prevent death , I take them to improve performance and recovery)
    -I don’t think you can supplement around an inherently bad diet .
    -It helps us generate better questions to ask.

  6. There is a treasure trove of studies on individual vitamins & minerals and their positive health benefits. Almost always, the positive response is dose dependent.

    Therefore, a multivitamin approach to seeking a desired health outcome should be built on these individualized doses, not with throw-in to the mix mentality of just adding ingredients (case in point, Centrum multivitamins).

    That’s how, for example, Ray Kurzweil has built his 100+ supplement pill multivitamin approach to anti-aging.

  7. Two years ago when I was severely anemic my doctor recommended Centrum Silver (because of its added iron. I ignored that and got a better iron supplement. At some point several years ago he recommended D3. Just last week I saw him and he quoted the party line about vitamins – yep, just vitamins. I asked if he meant multis or ALL vitamins. He said ALL VITAMINS ARE USELESS. If I had somewhere to look I’d be looking for a new doc.

  8. Hey Mark,

    Just wondering what you think about this doctor’s take on multivitamins. He is pro-multivitamin, but says you need to be taking the right one (he also seems to be on the same page as you regarding diet, fyi). He says there are 5 pitfalls. For example, he says that most multi-vitamins contain the wrong kind of vitamin e.

    1. The problem with multi-vitamins is they are one size fits all. Of course food is the best place to get nutrients, but after that individualized supplements are your best bet. Luckily come January getting high quality individualized supplements is about to be very easy.

  9. Also many vitamins are fat soluble, when you are on a low fat diet your body can not absorb any of these nutrients. There was really nothing said about what these people eat, I would bet it is low fat, high carb sad diet.

    There are many things that play in to well being, looking only at one piece of the puzzle really tells you nothing.

  10. Doctors and nutritional needs advice ??
    Are these the same doctors who tell their diabetic/obese/cardiac patients to eat whole grains, margarine and diet soda everyday ?
    The same doctors who watch hospital patients drinking diet sodas, eating cake, cookies, cereals, bread, etc ?
    There are many things that doctors do very well.
    They save countless lives.
    We owe them a lot of latitude and respect.
    But taking their nutritional advice isn’t on that list.
    I’ll keep taking my supplements.

    1. Doctors are good with trauma. I haven’t found them to be particularly useful for chronic conditions. Their knee-jerk reaction is invariably a prescription for some toxic drug that I refuse to take. Apparently eliminating the cause (often through better nutrition) versus medicating the symptoms is discouraged in medical school.

  11. Supplements aren’t good or bad, problem is using them as some magical remedy without understanding “Why?”; just because some advertisement or “expert” says you need them (or don’t). Use your mind to understand what you really need and don’t try to outsupplement bad lifestyle choices. Of course it’s always better to choose them in natural “package”, already Hippocrates knew it.

  12. I have been studying and using nutritional supplements for 40 years. I’m past the point of responding to every lame “vitamins are a waste of money” forum out there (not referring to MDA, this is one of the best health resources IMO and glad Mark brought up this topic) and a proper response would take at a minimum several paragraphs if not pages (if not a book) but in our society everything must be reduced to a bumper sticker or a tweet. Co-enzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol) reversed / eliminated my MVP. Quercetiin supplements have tremendously helped my sinus problems. l-theanine (with other nutrients) keeps my panic attacks under control, I can’t even begin to tell you the hell I went through and the number of pharmaceuticals I was prescribed that had undesirable side-effects until I took charge and finally got my life back for that problem. d-ribose and rhodiola rosea have had a huge impact on helping with fatigue that I now have under control. And yes, I take a HIGH quality multi-vitamin supplement as well a a sea minerals liquid supplement. A good (paleo of course) diet, exercise, fresh air, sun, recreation and good sleep are your most important health factors, but the right SUPPLEMENTS (note the dictionary definition of the word) can be very beneficial. Stand alone vitamins and minerals, or cheap drug store supplements … yeah, they might not be that helpful. There are food-matrixed, high quality supplements out there, do not go into a health food store and believe everything you read on a label, research the topic very carefully and consider what supplements you buy and why you are taking them. My doctor can’t believe how good my biomarkers are for my age and the shape I am in, I attribute some of that to well-researched and judicious use of supplements.

  13. I am always amazed by all those bottles and pills by the pharmacy side of Costco…Every week, they are demoing something “new to the market” and “good for you”….

  14. Supplements is a tough topic. What works for some doesn’t work for others, there are tons of co-factors for absorption, timing matters, dosage requirements are widely unique.

    Most folks don’t have the time to do the research to figure out what they’re needs are. Unfortunately Doctors often know as much about Supplements as Nutrition (since they naturally go hand in hand).

    There are some folks though that are tackling these exact issues. It’s pretty exciting.

    1. – just wanted to add. Doctors often know as LITTLE about Supplements as Nutrition. 🙂 Didn’t want to confuse anyone.

  15. Like any other product there is both good and bad in the marketplace. Doing your research before putting a supplement into your body is a must.

    For a long time I was using a cheap B complex vitamin with no improvements. I recently switched to a higher grade B complex and can’t believe the improvements in my health. No more cheap stuff for this guy.

  16. no way multivitamins are useless. some people can absolutely use the boost in things they are deficient in.

    1. I dislike popping a load of capsules, gelcaps, “bullets” and horse pills. Instead I use a high-quality powdered green drink every other day. It’s unsweetened and tastes like grass clippings but it’s very nutrient-dense, and I do notice an increase in well-being and energy since I started using it. A good brand is Garden of Life, but there are quite a few good ones to choose from. Steer clear of the bottled fruit and veggie drinks. They are loaded with sugars and light on nutrition.

  17. There are nutritional/supplement programs out there…the research is done for you…synergistic (balanced) and high levels of absorption are key…the powdered patented nutritional supplements I take are awesome and backed by science/research…epigenetics!

  18. I’ve collated a whole bunch of studies and articles on this very thing here:


    “If you believe your diet is unhealthy or insufficient to meet your nutritional requirements, then change your diet instead of adding supplements.

    Supplements should be reserved for when there’s an actual dietary deficiency or medical need that cannot be met through diet.”

  19. I’d love to hear Mark’s take on prenatal vitamins. I eat primal and generally follow the primal/ WAPF recommendations for fertility and pregnancy (liver, pastured eggs and dairy, lots of veggies and meat) and I couldn’t decide whether to take a prenatal multi or just supplement with folate and magnesium. I’m currently taking a multi plus Natural Calm in the evenings, but not sure if the multi is really necessary or even beneficial.

  20. Totally agree, Mark. Certain supplements in certain cases are extremely useful, and a couple, like vitamin D and magnesium, are useful for everyone due to widespread deficiency. Of course if you’re vitamin and mineral replete then you wouldn’t take any, but it’s a pipe dream to say that everyone is replete LOL. Some people also have really high nutrient needs. Personally, I would need to eat kidneys everyday or drink 4 cups of milk to get the riboflavin I require, which isn’t always possible. So for me, a supplement is very useful in this case. But different people have different nutrient requirements, and more nutrient-dense diets will tend to cover more bases. This is definitely a case of n=1. First figure out whether your diet is replete and do some genetic testing to see if you have sucky recycling or absorption of some vitamin/mineral, then decide whether you can increase the nutrients in your diet to cover those needs or if you need a supplement. You could also just trial some supplements to see if they help. I really have to roll my eyes at people who dump on supplements but are perfectly happy to subscribe all sorts of drugs.

  21. Being a relatively newby to vitamins – 1 yr or so – until reading this, I didn’t know there were low-grade and high-grade vitamin options. I’m going to keep taking a multi vitamin, but definitely do some research to find the best choice for me. For my Omegas, I take Nordic Natural’s Ultimate Omegas. I DID do my research on those, but never thought to research my multi vitamin. Duh.

  22. I wonder how much food a person has to eat to get all the nutrients they need? I can’t eat more than 1200 calories a day of anything without gaining weight.

    1. I find it helpful to track my food on, which breaks down the macro and micronutrients of the foods I am eating. In doing this, I learned that it is surprisingly easy to hit the RDA of vitamins and minerals–not that the RDA is gospel, but it’s a standard to shoot for–by eating strategically. There are some minerals I always have difficulty getting into my diet, but the majority were taken care of if I ate, for example, 4 ounces of liver, a cup of sautéed spinach, and a grapefruit. And since liver is so nutritious, I was well over the RDA for B vitamins and others.

      Of course, I ate this way when I was intentionally keeping calories down to lose weight. It’s not the most exciting diet and lots of people are repelled by liver. But my point is, it is possible to do if you want to do it. Give a try.

  23. Mark,

    I agree with you that “People absolutely should not be wasting money on mineral and vitamin supplements they don’t need.” and that ” Specific supplements work in specific cases. Multivitamins can be helpful for certain conditions, particularly if you eat a poor diet”. We can agree that in cases of overt illness and proven deficiency, supplements may make sense. But that’s not the way supplements are usually pitched: as a prophylactic “health guard” to be taken regularly for the rest of your life. The idea is out there that we “may as well” take daily supplements, even if we have no overt illness, because vitamins and supplements are cheap and there is no real downside. I’m afraid that the case for that position does not stand up.

    Most of the studies, including those that you cite, are based on either associations or short term interventional studies. Missing are the studies of the negative effects of antioxidants like vitamin C on down-regulating endogenous Phase II antioxidant enzymes which act catalytically, and are thus more efficient than vitamin C, which is neutralized stoichiometrically. Similarly, people have embraced the idea that we are all vitamin D deficient and, based upon flawed associational reasoning, it has become the nutritional fad of the decade. People love vitamin D because it apparently “resolves” allergies and infections–in the short term–while the long term risks that supplementation poses in suppressing the immune response are ignored.

    It seems to me more prudent to correct diet and lifestyle to optimize nutrient absorption and utilization, rather than resorting to a strategy of lifelong supplementation.

    I’ve spoke on this at the Ancestral Health Symposium this August — and have blogged about the details at length in several posts, at


  24. It’s not so much what you eat, but what you absorb, so if your digestion is not up to scratch, then you may not be getting all the nutrients from your food that you think you are. Also, the quality of the food matters & the soil things are grown in, so a quality Multivitamin may be a good assurance.

    Then there are people with allergies which may mean that they don’t get all the nutrients in their diet, due to being more restricted for choice.

    I have a condition called pyroluria, which means that I have a higher than usual need for zinc, the active form of vitamin B6 & manganese. Food cannot supply enough for my needs & I have to supplement fairly high amounts , so I would be lost without supplements. So in some cases, I believe that supplements are definitely necessary. It is very important though to buy a quality supplement from a trustworthy source.

  25. Vitamins work if they are well made vitamins. Doctors I know use them and the blood tests show results. BUT they use Top quality vitamins. If the vitamins they use for the research are sold in a box store, grocery store, etc. they are probably garbage. They need to break down inside the body, many have caranuba wax coating them, would you eat car wax? Also Vitamin E studies use synthetic Vitamin E not natural Vitamin E. It has been know for years the synthetic Vitamin E will cause major damage but natural vitamin E does great things.

  26. Question: if they are so ineffective, then why does the PDR have an entire separate volume devoted to them?

    Answer: they can and sometimes DO work, but need to be used correctly, and in the right setting.

    I looked at a lot of sites carrying this article and I found it rather intriguing that NOT ONE OF THEM HAD A PLACE TO COMMENT AFTERWARD. I was all itching to get on and say that with multiple food allergies, I for one am NOT going to stop taking vitamins or supplements unless one or more has been proven to make my situation worse!

    This is the first place I’ve had the chance to speak out. Don’t you think that’s strange? Don’t you also think it’s strange that we’re all being blanket-diagnosed by doctors who’ve never seen us, and that they’re (once again) using an inappropriate medicine to treat a totally inappropriate ailment?

    Seriously, if multivitamins cured things like cancer, Alzheimer’s, or heart disease, then One-A-Day and Centrum would be FILTHY RICH by now, and doctors would all be unemployed.

    What I found completely ironic: the diseases that they were trying to cure all had 1 thing in common: SUGAR. Instead of looking ion drugstore shelves for a cure, all they had to do is alter the diet…but OH NOOOOO! That’s the toughest task for these doctors.

  27. Thanks for the down-to-earth opinion. Where I’m from, herbal supplements are considered to be a pointless “hippie thing.” I started taking a high potency cranberry supplement (prescribed by my urologist) and it has considerably helped me in my fight against my chronic UTI. Do your research and speak with a doctor if you have questions about supplements and what you should or should not be taking!

    1. I hate to break it to you but Doctors no absolutely nothing about supplements. MDs at least. They are only trained in drugs, cutting, and burning. They do maybe 1 day in their entire medical school careers where they learn about nutrition and it isn’t anything that is beneficial. Doctors are not the people to see regarding supplements. Instead, see a naturopath, holistic doctor, or an herbalist.

  28. I feel like if your diet and lifestyle are crap, vitamins aren’t going to be the magic pill that’s going to save you. More interesting would be to take two groups of people eating real food and moving around outside and give one of them some vitamins and minerals.

  29. This is a tough topic. Simplistic answers are not helpful. There are too many variables and issues – it is hard to simplify them easily. I am convinced that vitamins are in fact abused, but that doesn’t change the fact that the right vitamins are probably needed in certain situations.

    My daughter, who is Celiac, simply cannot absorb sufficient iron yet. On the other hand, ingesting additional iron can negatively affect zinc absorption. Sometimes the balance is more important than the quantity. Unfortunately, for good or bad, talking to doctors is useless as their knowledge on vitamins is hit and miss at best. Similarly, naturopaths go too far, claiming “science based” treatment for everything under the sun. This, despite all good intentions, ends up providing the fodder for false “snake oil” claims that doctors point to in their disparagement of vitamins.

    Personally, I have brought under control a disturbing arrhythmia issue with the use of magnesium supplements. I have also assisted my daughter’s iron absorption (without additional iron supplementation) by giving her lactoferrin. Beyond that, I cannot really comment on how useful the other supplements are that I give her, but I do the best I can on the research I review. Like most controversies, there is probably some truth in both sides and the real answers are not going to be simple to find.

    1. When it comes to supplements, iron is the one that should never be blindly supplemented. On the one hand, if you suffer from iron deficiency anemia, supplementation could be crucial, and make an enormous difference in your overall well being, as in your daughters case. On the other hand, iron overload is a very serious condition that is often overlooked, and had an associative (and very likely causal role) in some very serious conditions, including heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Iron overload is very common in men and post menopausal women (although both can suffer from anemia too). In this case, iron removal (via phlebotomy in most cases) can make a huge difference in lifespan, and even quality of life.

  30. I use vit D3 and I love it. I also use magnesium which I find helpful at times too. That’s really about it, and I take zinc but not a whole lot. I think that’s a nice small amount of vits that are harder to obtain from the diet and/or to help the diet when extra sugar or alcohol are added ie. Christmas (the magnesium).

    I took a lot of vitamins last year after I made myself sick and I do believe they definitely helped, but I took out certain ones over time until I dwindled them down to what i have now. 🙂

    I think smart supplementation is a good thing, but again as poster #1 said, “Context.”

    Merry Christmas everyone. 🙂

  31. My father started taking nutrilite in the 1960’s…when his doc told him that calcium supplementation caused calcium build up in the joints…and arthritis. He was also told by other doctors that he would have arthritis from injuries he received……He die from lung cancer after drinking and smoking excessively(3 packs a day) – but no arthritis – and very active till the end……and took nutrilite most of his adult life. He seemed far healthier than he should have been…. of course that is not a study – just anecdotal…but good enough for me.

  32. You also have to look at who funds the studies. Natural vitamins and supplements threaten Big Pharma and the medical industries profits. Also, what the article fails to state is that the products they used are synthetic, isolated supplements. The body does not recognize these synthetic, isolate vitamins and simply eliminates them as waste oppose to using them for nutritional deficiency. If you use whole food vitamins that are in the ratio that nature intended instead of fake synthetic isolated supplements made in a lab, they are incredibly beneficial. Surprised Mark didn’t hit on this. The truth of the matter is that natural, whole food vitamins and minerals from reputable companies that don’t use binders and fillers such as talc, magnesium stearate (even if from vegetables) they will absolutely have a positive impact on your health. Do not listen to mainstream media. Vitamins and minerals threaten the profits of Big Pharma and the medical industry.

  33. I think the usefulness of supplements actually depends on conditions, in some situations it works wonders but in a few cases it hardly shows any result. So you just can’t say that supplements are useless.

  34. People (including our beloved Mark Sisson) who sell supplements promote their benefits, and question the scientists and doctors who publish in peer-reviewed journals who find that some supplements are not helpful. The Paleo movement has been popular in part (and especially among younger people) because it takes on the medical establishment who are quick to prescribe medicine versus taking a whole view of the patient. I think one needs to use common sense and one’s own experience to guide. I personally believe in the scientific method, AND in taking a holistic view of the body/person. I think the system of peer-reviewed work has helped cure or eliminate many diseases worldwide, and should’t be dismissed. I think Paleo proponents should invest in better science and credentialed spokespeople to support their claims, or they risk losing credibility long term. I think it is possible that Paleo is good for digestive health but harmful for cardiovascular disease and cancer, especially for sedentary people. If you feel supplements have helped you, then take them. If a study in a well-respected journal says the supplement you are taking is harmful, then I would stop taking it. But that’s just one person’s opinion.

  35. Since starting the Paleo Diet 8 weeks ago I can tell you honestly that multivitamins now make me very ill. Head pressure, head aches, nausea, liver pain, digestive distress. They are awful. If you eat a natural diet with a variety of meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, good fats then you do not need any additional supplements.

    Don’t waste your money on these things; instead invest it in a healthy diet, good exercise, and plenty of restful sleep.

  36. Such a controversial subject! But I’m glad that MDA embraced it and challenged us to see where we stand on it. It’s tough to find a quality product out there that provides a variety of supplements from multi-vitamins to protein shakes. Personally, I take supplements to help fill the voids that I’m not able to obtain with my balanced diet.

  37. Since I started supplementing with zinc several years ago I haven’t had a common cold, not once and the bouts I’ve had with the flu have been very short and didn’t require antibiotics.

    Also my quality of sleep went up with my cal, mag, zinc regiment.

    My father from 70- 73 would yearly get something akin to walking pneumonia that he couldn’t shake for weeks even with rounds of progressively stronger antibiotics. Last winter I got him to buy the Earth Fare branded cal, mag, zinc and take a calcium ascorbate supp along with eating an orange EVERY DAY along with an 8oz serving of organic veggie juice (RW Knudsen) twice daily which gives you a whopping 1020mg of potassium. Within a four, five days he felt much better in ten days it was gone and he’s not gotten it again nor has he had a common cold. His doc said it was ‘just a coincidence’. He no longer goes to that doctor but to a doctor that goes natural before pharma. His goal is to HEAL you not just keep you somewhere between sick and healed so as to keep the cash register ringing.

    Bottom line is I’ve seen supps and vitamins heal people. Granted these folks made some other changes dietary but my dad still eats bread and pasta like a fiend and has a pretty considerable belly but it’s better then it was as is he.

  38. Any opinion on moringa? It’s said to be rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

  39. In one of the studies that looked at the methodology used in the research the doctors had a quote I liked:

    “it’s foolish to suggest that a multivitamin which costs a nickel a day is a bad idea.”