The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 945: Vitamin Pills and Aspirin for Prevention: A Smart Move or a Waste of Money?

Although many Americans take vitamin pills and aspirin to stay healthy, some public health authorities say the risks outweigh the benefits. We don't agree.
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Vitamin Pills and Aspirin for Prevention

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Over the last several months a number of studies have found that multivitamins are not an effective way to prevent Alzheimer’s or heart disease. But are they really a waste of money, as one editorial suggests? We talk with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog about the evidence base for vitamin use.

How Scary Is Aspirin?

Similar doubts have now been raised about aspirin.  The FDA has recently warned that people who have never had a heart attack should not take low-dose aspirin on a regular basis. Data show that aspirin can reduce the likelihood of repeat heart attacks, but the agency warns that the risks of aspirin are too high to justify taking it for primary prevention. That means using aspirin in the hope of preventing an initial heart attack. How can you balance benefits against risks?

Should you ever take vitamin pills and aspirin?

This Week’s Guest:

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is Director of Fellowship for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona. She has served as Chair of the United States Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements–Botanicals Expert Committee. Her new book is Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well without Prescriptions, from National Geographic. 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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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I like what Dr. Low Dog has to say. She is very aware, practical and willing to do what it takes to assist a patient.
I would bet she is one doctor who would test for B12 deficiency. I believe it is of the most overlooked severe deficiency problems in the US today.
There are several Youtube videos that give more info on possible symptoms and possible causes of increased deficiency including taking metformin & PPI’s.

I was taking 1/2 tablet ASA, 162mg, every day to prevent cancer and stroke or heart attack. That was too much. I was also eating fish oil, salmon, and freshly ground flax, which are all known to thin the blood. So I started getting nose bleeds when I did push ups, and small blood clots in my nose overnight. After stopping the ASA, it took what it seemed to be a long time (about 3 weeks) for the morning clots to stop. I restarted taking 1/4 tab ASA, 81mg, every other day for about a month now, with no unusual bleeding. There you have it. I’m 69, med free. Sincerely, Russ

“I did not hear the radio show, we don’t get it in Houston.”
Hi Barbara, you can download the mp3 of the radio show from this website (free for four weeks after broadcast). Click on “Buy This Show on CD or MP3” which you will find just before the comments start, if you want your own copy, or: “Click the arrow to play audio file:” which can be found just to the right of the picture of the guest. Hope this helps. Russ

My husband is 73 years old and I will be turning 71 in June. We have taken vitamins, minerals and some herbal supplements for years and years. We are the only people we know our age who take no prescription medicine at all. We attempt to keep up on the latest info for amounts of which supplements to take and have fasting blood work taken at least once a year. Aside from some digestive problems my husband has, we are the healthiest people I know.
We are lucky to have two open-minded internal medicine doctors and we have all learned a lot from each other concerning vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements.

If vitamins are useless, why do doctors tell heart patients to take potassium? an older person B12? a menopausal woman Vitamin C?
I think the pharmaceutical world just wants us to stop buying cheap medicine.

Carolina, What is Thyroxine? Is Thyroxine the generic for Synthroid?
What did you mean you can’t take Thyroxine with Magnesium? I did not hear the radio show, we don’t get it in Houston.

Cut costs of what????

I’m in agreement with Doc.
Recently started taking 1/2 of a vitamin for women per day. I figure if the vitamin pill delivers 100 percent of daily requirement, then 50% along with my attempts at a nutritious, balanced diet should do it. Who knows anything for sure?
When tested my vitamin D level was very low. Took a lot of vitamin D and now my level is normal, but is it “healthy” normal if not delivered through food and sunlight? Who knows?
My finger nails are cracking and pealing now. What the heck is that? Old age, diet or those pills?

Hello!!! Glad I listened to the program today! I take Thyroxine and was taking Magnesium at the same time! No wonder I was gaining weight! I also take Losartan, and I am taking it with B12 and Folic Acid. Is that ok? Thanks!!!!

I found today’s show fascinating. On the advice of my doctor I have been using Aspirin for 8 years and am very confident in its efficacy.
I do not understand the FDA’s position but given recent events I do not trust any government-run agency. The cynic in me wonders could this be a way to cut costs.

The truth of the matter, the general public wants to be healthy, and they want to trust the specialists in the field. It is very hard for the general public to understand the constant change in standards, at the same time watch the huge amount of profits being made by the specialists in the field.
I personally believe the reason why some politicians are fighting the Affordable Care Act, is because down the road, this pharmaceutical issue of profits verses benefits to the general public will be at the front door. Including issues of hospital care related deaths and physician related contradictions to their oath.
I would love to see a healthcare related program that includes natural and man-made medicines merging, which also would require a huge demand in public education, not only of the physical body, but the internal organs and their responses to natural and man-made pharmaceuticals, which should start at the primary ages, but unfortunately t is not financially profitable, it is only good for the general public.

I take one 325 mgm ASA every morning with a few other supplements, no vitamins. I take it because without it some of my finger joints swell up, are painful and make using my hands painful. Also, I have very occasional bouts of angina the Aspirin seems to circumvent this. It is the only anti-inflammatory I know that doesn’t have several severe side effects; steroids for example. Nothing worse than cortisone which makes things disappear then reappear worse than they were prior to taking steroids. Most medication causes side effects with me, Aspirin does not. Why don’t researchers do their researching on the statin drugs? This century’s biggest hoax.

The ‘presumption’ is that all American’s have a healthy and well balanced diet. We all know this to be NOT true, it is a myth perpetuated by a government who wants to portray Americans as ‘well fed’ – many rural area in America belie this idea and this concept. Often a Vitamin tablet is THE only complete nutrition a person can afford. Even in large cities which pride themselves on being ‘progressive’– Portland, Seattle, San Francisco along the West coast, also have some of the highest ‘food deserts’ in the world, and when a person finds their rent rising faster than their income (witness above cities, and many others) shelter takes importance over food, especially when ‘food’ takes for form of ‘Junk’ foods and snacks, let alone the concurrent problem of a persons choice of drug-of-dependance to escape from their oppressive poverty.
When setting up studies, care is taken to reflect what the medicine under examination does, thus, ‘healthy individuals’ with a ‘well balanced diet’ are chosen. I beg to point out that the ‘well balanced diet’ is a thing of the past in most places, and in my humble opinion, has no place in modern drug studies. Thus when an experiment is designed to control for variable, one of he first variables chosen is that the person be in good health and ‘well nourish’ – you do not see studies carried out on a population that mirrors the ACTUAL population, thus from the very inception of the study, the poor, the disadvantaged, and the under nourished are screened out. This alone would make the study invalid.

I am a 61 yo female with diabetes, asthma and allergies. My skin is so thin that when I get bumped I bruise easily. While I was being treated for wound care on my leg from falling down. My legs were red all over. The wound doc asked me to go to my healthcare provider, who told me to stop taking the low dose aspirin and fish oil. So I did and the redness under my skin in the legs went away within the week. Well, I forgot to start up taking the low dose aspirin and fish oil, but I still bruise easily and wonder if it is because I now take CoQ10 300mg. It was my allergist who advised me to take CoQ10 300mg. Should I be taking the low dose aspirin as well as the fish oil with the CoQ10?
Please advise,

I’ll hear this on Saturday morning. I take a broad range of vitamins and herbs but with the understanding that nothing beats a wholesome diet and moderate exercise. Each individual’s situation varies. Important is what works for each of us.

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