Do you pop a multivitamin every morning?
Do you wash your hands with antibacterial soap every time you see a speck of grime (or hear someone in the next cubicle sneeze)?
You may be wasting your time and money — and even doing yourself harm — according to a couple of reports this week.
Three studies cited in an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine claim multivitamins do nothing to prevent cancer, prevent or help heart disease, protect people’s brainpower as they age or extend their life spans.
In fact, one of the studies found that taking beta-carotene and vitamin E might actually increase the risk of lung cancer in some cases.
The editorial’s bluntness was reflected in its title: “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”
Being that vitamin supplementation is a close to $30 billion a year business in the U.S., the industry of course fired back, calling the researchers “closed-minded.” Other, ongoing studies of multivitamin use don’t use the words “waste” or “cure-all,” having found some potential (and small) benefits.
We doubt this medical journal editorial will convince multivitamin users to leave them on the shelves (the headline alone comes across as a bit condescending).
We’re not scientists, either, so we won’t offer an opinion on the specifics of the studies. We’ll just point out that the mind is a powerful thing, and if people think they’re getting benefits from something, those benefits are very real and concrete to them.
Still, it’s hard to argue with the game plan the researchers offered for staying healthy — eat right and exercise.
On the same day the vitamin research was released, the Food and Drug Administration released a report saying that 40 years of research by its scientists has found no evidence that anti-bacterial soaps (not alcohol-based sanitizers) stop the spread of germs.
In fact, their research indicates the chemicals in those soaps — commonly triclosan — can interfere with hormone levels in lab animals and actually can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.
The FDA has proposed a rule that would require antibacterial soap makers to prove by 2016 that their products are safe and more effective than plain old soap and water. Otherwise, those products would have to be reformulated, relabeled or discontinued.
Manufacturers in what has become a $1 billion a year industry claim the FDA has “a wealth of data” showing the benefits of their products. It must not be all that compelling, given the agency’s action this week.
We don’t have a problem with the burden of proof being on the soap makers. They have every right to market products, and if people want to buy something more than plain old soap for hand washing, it’s their business (and money).
They just need to know for sure what they’re getting.
— From the New Bern Sun Journal