The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

January 10, 2014

Vitamin deficiency? Supplements come under fire

DANVILLE — A recent report examining the effectiveness of multivitamins has led to several questions at The Danville Pharmacy.

“It’s definitely had an impact,” said owner Kathy Grandizio. “I’ve had numerous customers inquire about that.”

The report, written by Dr. Edgar Mills, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, focused on studies that found no difference between those who regularly took the vitamins and those who did not. In one study, the vitamins were found to do nothing to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer and in another no differences could be found over the course of 12 years between a group of men who took the vitamins and those who took a placebo.

It’s too soon for Grandizio to tell if the report will cut into multi-vitamin sales at all. She’s had similar media coverage affect drug sales in the past. A recent Tylenol recall caused sales of that drug to fall for a while, but they eventually picked back up. If media coverage of multivitamins dies down, then sales will likely return to normal, she said.

The Danville Pharmacy offers over-the-counter multivitamins and prescriptions for supplements such as vitamin D and pre-natal vitamins.

What Miller’s study ultimately showed is that taking “mega doses” of multivitamins do not make a person more healthy, said Dr. Christopher Still, director of Geisinger Medical Center’s Center for Nutrition and Weight Management and the director of the Geisinger Obesity Institute.

“For disease prevention, mega-doses of one specific vitamin or mineral have not been shown to be beneficial,” he said. In one of Mills’ experiments, smokers who took beta carotene supplements to decrease their risk of lung cancer actually increased their risk. “For the majority of people, just a cheap generic multiple vitamin ... to supplement daily allowances is not needed.”

Multivitamins can be useful for people with a known deficiency in some nutrients, though. “I’m not saying specific vitamins are not needed, but it’s very patient dependent,” Still said.

For example, people suffering from osteoporosis can benefit from additional calcium supplements, he said. It is all based upon genetic factors of a patient, such as age, ethnicity and medical history. “Knowing your levels and having some guidance from your provider is very important,” Still said.

Grandizio agrees that it’s important to seek help from a medical professional before a person decides what medication to take or not to take. People often try to self-diagnose themselves using resources on the Internet, but there is no substitute for a professional opinion, she said.

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