Verkerk, vitamin supplements

What Is the Value of Vitamin Supplements?

For years, doctors have been divided on the value of vitamin supplements. Many contended that supplementary vitamins are a waste of money and potentially even dangerous. They agree with Public Citizen, which headlined a recent issue of its newsletter, “Dietary Supplements Offer Little to No Benefit and May Be Harmful.”

Are Americans Eating Their Vegetables?

Others, surveying the typical American diet with its emphasis on processed foods and paucity of vegetables, consider vitamin tablets a form of nutrition insurance. They usually emphasize that vitamin supplements are not a substitute for vegetables, whole grains and other components of a healthful diet.

Will Supplements Lead to an Early Death?

The balance was upset late in 2011 when results of the Iowa Women’s Health Study were publicized. This epidemiological research uncovered a frightening link between taking vitamin supplements and dying prematurely. The one exception was calcium tablets–but other studies suggest that supplemental calcium may contribute to arterial plaque.

We hear from both sides of the great vitamin debate. What is your take on vitamins?

Guests for This Episode:

David R. Jacobs, Jr., PhD, is the Mayo Professor of Public Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He is a principal investigator of the Iowa Women’s Health Study and co-investigator of CARDIA, a national study on the development of cardiovascular disease from an early age.

Robert Verkerk, PhD, is founder and director of the Alliance for Natural Health, a natural products advocacy group based in the United Kingdom. His website is The photo is of Dr. Verkerk.

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is Director of the Fellowship for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona. Her latest book is Life Is Your Best Medicine: A Woman’s Guide to Health, Healing and Wholeness at Every Age. Her website is

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:October 13, 2012

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  1. Jill

    This is an excellent podcast that I used with my college nutrition class but is now no longer available. I would be glad to purchase the podcast but that is not an option either.

    Why is this broadcast not available? Thank you so much for your help!

  2. cpmt

    Well I will like to know more … if there is a place or book to look at about certain vitamins (A,E,B12 etc) can cause cancer or metastasize cancer if taken for too long or too much. I will appreciate if anyone knows something or a book were I can find this information. Thanks

  3. Barbara J.

    The state of our farm-raised food is deplorable, food processing techniques and farm animal living conditions are actually dangerous. Beef stock are grown on overcrowded and filthy feed lots; tens of thousands of chickens in cavernous, unhealthy barns. These animals must be fed daily rations of antibiotics and growth hormones to quickly bring them to marketable size; otherwise they could not tolerate what passes for “normal” living conditions. They are not even fed traditional foods but mainly corn laced with chemicals which can sicken them. Such is the typical quality of what is found in supermarkets today, farm-raised foods with chemical and drug residues and foods processed so intensely in factories that little nutrient value remains.
    Added to this woeful picture are the wrong-headed USDA food pyramid recommendations which have for years brought about a steady deterioration in people’s health. In light of all this, taking supplemental vitamins and minerals could at least be minimal protection for our health.

  4. J.L.B.

    Everyone should get the book written by Dr. Ray D. Strand titled ‘What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You’ published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, copyright 2002. On page 177, subject ‘Quality of Food in the U.S.’ there is a report to the U.S. Senate by Rex Beach that states “The alarming fact is that foods-fruits and vegetables and grains-now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain minerals, are starving us no matter how much we eat.“
    That statement was made in 1936 and little has been done to improve our nation’s depleted soil. Plants cannot create minerals but they must absorb them from the soil and if the minerals are not there the plants will not have them. Organic fertilizers that have these minerals are very expensive and hard to obtain. What farmers are using is fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and these fertilizers enable the farmers to grow good looking grains and produce but the crops are depleted of the other necessary minerals.
    Furthermore, modern processing and food storage methods cause further depletion of essential nutrients in our food. These are the reasons that a person should take supplemental vitamins to maintain good health. Also only 6 percent of graduating medical students have received any training in nutrition so most physicians are oblivious of the need to educate their patients. Instead the doctor reaches for his prescription pad.

  5. gdh

    Thank you for this and all of the information you pass on to us your dedicated listeners. I am constantly passing on information I have heard on your show to friends and family.
    As for the supplement conversation on this show, I am wondering how do we determine ‘quality’ products. I buy from local health food store and local chain pharmacy but I have to consider these business are looking out for profit opportunities when advising me on the product I should buy.

  6. MJB

    OMG! If you can’t read the labels, STOP ingesting quantities/strengths that you don’t understand. This is the ultimate example of people following what they think is “good advice” and swallowing like sheep. Just read the labels, get pencil and paper, and keep track of what you’re doing to yourself!

  7. Lloyd C.

    One more comment (for introspection);
    When asked, “Teacher, where do I find the “living waters”?”, Jesus replied, “Throw down your buckets where you are.”
    Now we know that people all over the earth have very dissimilar diets; the Eskimo does not eat as the European, nor the Mexican as the Chinese, but there is no barrier to “natural health” in either society. So, there is a ample historical perspective of “nutrition” based on ‘evolutionary diet’…huh? Like using ‘ice cores’ as a geological measurement.
    Now we recently find that genetic material could last as many as 6 million years!!! Wow… what a historical ‘genetic-based’ survey of ‘health’ could be done if we can ‘translate’ genetic health with the supplements ‘needed’ for specific genetic “groups”. At present these methods of observation are diverted into the ignorance of race-based medicine or dismissive of ‘environmental factors’ associated with ecology, nutrition, and behavior.
    Is it possible that particular supplements would be more appropriate based on environment and genome-type?

  8. Andrew Prescott

    Thank you for this show, the examination of individualized biochemestry, critique of the Iowa health study and focus on multifactorial methods is at least representative of a major milestone even revolution in health care.

  9. Lloyd C.

    I have taken supplements(Centrum + Aspirin) for the last 30 years(daily). I know from personal experience not only the physical aspects, but the mental aspects of this regimen.
    In order for the supplement to ‘work’ you must start with the ‘premise’ that it is a “supplement’ which is ‘associated’ with the process of “digestion”, in which the relevant ‘enzymes’ must be present in the -gut- for the supplement to work in conjunction with the food.
    I see this primarily, over many years, that if I take my supplement 1/2 hour after eating, and then take a 15 minute walk, that is the best formulation. So, there is a basis for the ‘digestion’ of the composite. NEVER take supplements alone without food; producing a very ‘toxic’ reaction. Without the 15 min walk, the supplement does not effectively mix with the food to produce the same result. If I don’t walk and happen to fall asleep…then a different result.
    I also take supplements(Glucosimine/Chondoritan, Fish Oil, and Vitamin D) on a ‘seasonal’ basis(3mo/yr).
    BTW, the fact that I use large doses of Aspirin in conjunction with the supplement has a complimentary effect of the supplement…and I have observed this also through trial and error. I account this to Aspirin being a (quasi) Class A drug that crosses the “blood-brain barrier”, which may contribute to the supplementary effect. Or there could be some action in the gut that the Aspirin is doing to the tissue lining which would have greater effect.
    Thank you…a response would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Lori

    I am taking a lot of vitamins and supplements and trying to locate a way to keep tabs of daily vitamin intake such as
    something where I can scan the jar sku number that helps me keep track of which vitamin. Any suggestions for a way to track vitamins ?

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