Posted by: Tony Carson | 4 December, 2009

Pill-popping vitamins a $9 billion industry

Here’s a curious bit of writing.

Americans love vitamins. About half of adults take a daily multivitamin, according to industry data. And according to some theories, the economic downturn has inspired them to fortify themselves by swallowing more.

Sales over the last decade had been growing by about 4 percent annually. But this year, as more people are taking their health into their own hands, perhaps hoping to stave off doctor bills, vitamin sales are expected to grow by 8 percent to a total of $9.2 billion, according to Nutrition Business Journal, a market researcher and publisher.

About 42 percent of shoppers purchase their vitamins at natural and specialty retail outlets, like GNC and Whole Foods, according to the journal, while only 23 percent take the discount approach and buy their bottles at supermarkets and club stores. The other 35 percent buy through mail order or from a health care provider.

We’ve been told throughout the past year that vitamins do little more for us than make our pee more yellow. Right? Yet in this piece in the NY Times entitled What’s Worth Paying For When Buying Vitamins? there is no mention of that.

Until you get to the 7th paragraph.

Of course, it’s controversial whether we should be taking vitamins at all. Recent studies have indicated that taking a multivitamin won’t protect you from heart disease or cancer. And experts maintain that if you eat well, you don’t need vitamin supplements.

“The evidence shows that a healthy diet and exercise are the best way to ward off disease; a vitamin cannot replace those benefits,” says Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

But what if you don’t eat well or are chronically stressed out? Then, Professor Rimm says, there may be some benefit from taking a multivitamin. “Certain subgroups, including women of child-bearing age attempting to get pregnant, may need specific supplements, like folic acid and omega-3,” he added.

Why isn’t the article about why Americans shouldn’t waste the $9.2 billion they spend on these redundancies?

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