Readers Digest Is Dead Wrong on Vitamins

April 19, 2010
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

54042577893446815323_1Why do most doctors and nurses take supplements if they aren’t useful?

The April issue of Reader’s Digest ran an anti-vitamin article that’s generated quite a lot of responses. That may be because more than half of all Americans currently take nutritional supplements.

According to the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, here’s just some of what readers had to say:

“Basic biochemistry and a review of the literature supports the benefits of supplements . . . .Reader’s Digest discussed only the science that it chose to discuss. Cherry-picking science is bad science.”

“I am a registered nurse and read many articles on health. . . . Please ask the author to research more thoroughly and write a new article.”

“I’ve been taking vitamins successfully to cure colds and prevent them for the past year. I also feel much better, lost 30 lbs, and have more energy than ever.”

“With fact checkers and common sense use of the Internet and Pub Med, I believe your reporter could have discovered many 1000s of scientific studies on the health benefits of vitamins and minerals.”

“The Reader’s Digest has joined the Flat Earth Society. Shame on you!”

“I grew up reading Reader’s Digest and used to enjoy it tremendously before it was apparently taken over by pharmaceutical ads.”

“As I read their amazingly biased information regarding vitamins, I realized Reader’s Digest does publish some nice fiction stories.”

“You have got to be kidding. You have ignored a flotilla of articles, peer reviewed as well, on the benefits of vitamins for a variety of conditions including macular degeneration. I know the field well as I am an ophthalmologist.”

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

It’s heartening to see so many people relying on their own personal experience and on science—instead of buying into this bogus article. After all, if 72% of physicians and 89% of nurses take a multivitamin, they must have a good reason.

At the most basic level, a good multi is sound health insurance! The National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) finds that many Americans—children, teens, and adults—fail to consume the recommended amounts of vitamins A, C, D, and E, plus important minerals.

As a clinical nutritionist, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to obtain all the nutrients humans need from today’s overly processed food supply. Even the conservative American Dietetic Association admits: “Additional nutrients from supplements can help some people meet their nutrition needs.”

As the name implies, dietary supplements augment even a good diet, ensuring that people get all the nutrients they need. And they’re particularly critical for anyone trying to lose weight, which is why I formulated the Dieters’ Multivitamin and Mineral (and Iron-Free Dieters’ Multivitamin and Mineral formula for men and postmenopausal women).

Just the Facts, No Fiction
Not only are vitamin and mineral supplements important for overall health and wellness, they protect against a range of unwanted conditions and diseases—from neural tube (birth) defects to cardiovascular disorders.

A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that long-term use of a multivitamin may reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 16%, while other research finds that people taking multivitamins have a younger “biological” age than those who rely on diet alone.

Starting before conception through a ripe old age, you need sound nutrition. As one reader asks Reader’s Digest, “Why did you miss reporting on large studies showing vitamin supplements improve IQ scores in children?”

Douglas McKay, ND, Vice President, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, also points out the importance of supplements for bone health, digestive health, joint health, and much more. “A meta-analysis shows that taking vitamin C may reduce the duration of a cold by 8% in adults and more than 13% in children,” he adds.

A new study in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer shows that taking a multivitamin significantly reduces the risk of cervical cancer, as well as the viral load of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes that cancer. Research sponsored by the National Cancer Institute shows that taking vitamins A, C, K, carotenoids, lutein, and folic acid may lessen the risk of lung cancer in smokers. And women who take a daily multi with calcium seem to have a lower risk for breast cancer.

Another recent study finds that taking vitamin D3 not only prevents fractures in elderly women but has also been linked to lower risk of falling—the major cause of fracture in osteoporosis. The list—and studies—go on and on. (See for more.)

As someone who fought hard for passage of the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA) in the ’90s, I’m glad to see that so many Americans are sticking up for their right to take supplements. And happy that the just-passed FDA Food Modernization Act also respects consumers’ right to take vitamins, minerals, and other supplements—certainly more than Reader’s Digest does!


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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Bruce Scrogin

    These anti-vitamin/supplement articles have been published for years. I believe that these are evidence of a huge business in America – that of treating illness, disease, injury and all our various maladies – defending its territory. It is approaching 20% of the entire economy. The “health care” (not health care at all) industry is a for-profit business and relies on market growth, just like any other business. There is no incentive for the companies in that business to eliminate disease, et al. In fact, the reverse is true. This explains the anti vitamin articles, just as it does the existence of the tobacco business, the growth of the firearms business (how many are injured annually?), the growth of the fast foods business and the lack of regulation of the food we eat, air we breath and water we drink. It explains the tiny amount spent on researching cancer and heart disease compared to the huge amount spent on caring for the victims (maybe we would have to look to our food, water and air supplies for some answers). This is the ultimate problem and it’s a mountain. Thanks for the fat flush diet, but if one lives outside the major urban markets, it is hard to find any really good organic or even locally grown food and it is expensive. Why does most of the produce we are offered come from other countries? This is another piece in the puzzle.

  2. Sarah

    I am a nutritionist. A number of years ago, I was attending a seminar on nutrition given to doctors and nurses. A very angry nurse in the audience took the speaker to task with the “supplements are nothing but expensive pee” argument. (Meaning, of course, that you just pee them out as they go right through you). The speaker looked at her, took a long drink from a glass of water and said “That’s going to go right through me as well. Do you think it is not going to do anything for my health on its way out?” ‘Nuff said.

  3. Sharon

    WOW! What utter nonsense. I recently started a Vitamin B-12 and a multivitamin regimen, at the advice of my doctor. So, if vitamins are so bad, then why would a doctor recommend that I take them? I think the anti-vitamin group should do much more research before opening their mouths just to put their foot in them. As for the nurse that tried to take the speaker to task at a seminar, I have only three words and 3 exclamation points at the end, “SHAME ON YOU!!!”

    Sharon/AKA Christiangirl177

  4. Scott

    I too was appalled at the article. I wrote to the editors to express my disgust in the author’s “selective” choices of scientific articles to back up her opinion and the general lack of citing any of her sources. I received a response that the author researched hundreds of articles and that she was only reporting the “facts” of her research. In reality the author had an agenda to discredit vitamins from the beginning and only searched for those articles that supported her opinion. The real FACTS are available for those who conduct their own independent research. Dietary Supplements are an essential part of a health and wellness strategy!

  5. Accidental Tourist

    In Reader’s Digest’s defense, the one vitamin that the article did say was worth taking was Vitamin D.

  6. Administrator

    Good comment Accidental Tourist but what happened to Vitamin A, the B-complex, Vitamin C, E, and all the minerals I wonder!.

  7. ncarreon

    With all the bad and good reports about vitamins and mineral supplements, it is still better to eat what is natural. Fruits and vegetables is the number one in the line if you want to get the best for your body’s defenses against sickness. But of course, it can’t be completed without proper exercise and discipline.


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