The Doctor Who Thinks You Should Stop Taking Vitamins: Is He Right? - Save Our Bones

Every now and then, the Mainstream Media reports some health-related news that reminds me of how necessary it is to keep digging deeply to bring out the truth, and how important it is to share it with you.

This month, the New York Times published an article authored by Dr. Paul Offit, warning about the dangers of “large quantities” of supplemental vitamins. Today, we'll dissect Dr. Offit's claims and try to get to the truth.

But first, here’s an example of why it's prudent to take warnings such as his with a grain of salt: eggs were once promoted as healthful, then demonized as unhealthy, then placed back on the healthy list! Dietary fats are another illustration of a once-shunned nutrient whose benefits are now being touted as good for you.

What are you supposed to think?

Of course, I am not here to tell you what you’re supposed to think. Instead, I am committed to presenting truthful information so you can think for yourself. And part of that involves uncovering flaws in certain “scientific studies”.

You see, when study flaws are glossed over, it results in short-sighted conclusions and less-than-truthful health information. And this applies to bone health as well.

The New York Times Reports: “Don’t Take Your Vitamins”

Yes, that’s right – the mainstream media is now advising not to take vitamins. The article reports on a number of studies and reviews from 1994 to 2012 that, apparently, indicate that supplemental nutrients cause disease and even death.

“In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1994,” reports The New York Times, “29,000 Finnish men, all smokers, had been given daily vitamin E, beta carotene, both or a placebo. The study found that those who had taken beta carotene for five to eight years were more likely to die from lung cancer or heart disease”1,2

Even more alarming (it would seem) are the results of a 2004 study that showed supplemental doses of vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, and selenium increased mortality.3 A 2012 Cochrane review indicated similar results: beta carotene and Vitamin E actually appeared to increase mortality among participants.4

What’s going on here?

The problem, reports the article, is antioxidants.

The Antioxidant Paradox

Something is said to be a paradox if the same evidence produces conflicting conclusions. And information about antioxidants is definitely paradoxical.

I devote an entire chapter to antioxidants in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, because they are so crucial to bone health. Antioxidants work to eradicate free radicals from the body. Free radicals are the by-product of normal cellular respiration, and they cause oxidative damage that hurts your bones (and other tissues and body systems). That’s why your body has an antioxidant system in place.

Yet some research seems to suggest that free radicals actually have some health benefits, and problems can arise if antioxidant levels circulating in the blood are too elevated.

Making Sense of it all: Flawed Studies

As we put what appears to be contradictory information together, let’s begin with the studies used in The New York Times article.

In the 1994 study cited earlier, the participants – all Finnish smokers – were “randomly assigned” 50 mg of alpha-tocopherol (an antioxidant), 20 mg of beta carotene, both alpha-tocopherol and beta carotene, or a placebo.

The key to the study’s flaw lies in the phrase “randomly assigned.”

It was completely up to chance as to who got which supplement or none at all. While the study reports that those participants who took the beta-carotene were more likely to die of lung cancer, there was no correction made that would allow for varying lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise. We have no idea what other potentially lethal habits the “random” supplement-takers had, or what other environmental toxins they were exposed to. Did they have asbestos in their homes, for example? Did they have an occupation that involved breathing toxic vapor or dust?

In other words, there were plenty of other factors besides the beta-carotene supplements that could easily have tipped the scales in favor of developing lung cancer. There just wasn’t enough information to draw the conclusion that beta-carotene increases lung cancer risk.

Note, too, the unspoken conclusion of the study: that those who did not take the antioxidants – the participants whose free radicals were allowed to run amok, so to speak – were actually healthier, leading to the incorrect conclusion that there are health benefits in letting free radicals roam unchecked.

But we don’t have any information on the lifestyle practices of the participants who did not take the antioxidant supplements either; perhaps they exercised regularly or ate antioxidant-rich diets. There are a number of factors that could have influenced their outcomes as well. It’s ridiculous to take the data from this study and assume that elevated levels of free radicals have some kind of health-promoting properties.

Chronic Disease Among Study Participants

In the 2004 study I mentioned earlier, wherein Vitamin E supplements supposedly increased mortality rates, the flaw is evident in the study’s limitations: “High-dosage (> or =400 IU/d) trials were often small and were performed in patients with chronic diseases. The generalizability of the findings to healthy adults is uncertain.”3

Giving relatively large doses of Vitamin E to a few chronically ill participants presents very specific data. It’s quite a stretch to apply these results to the general population.

The 2012 Cochrane Report Fares No Better

The Cochrane Report conglomerates the results of various trials whose participants were radically varied. “The trials appeared to have enough statistical similarity that they could be combined,”4 says the report. Despite how they may have “appeared,” the trials most definitely did not have enough “statistical similarity” to be combined.

Here’s why. Healthy participants were lumped in with those who were chronically ill without making allowances for the differences. There are so many unanswered questions with this study. Could the seemingly healthy participants have undiagnosed conditions? How did the chronic illness of some participants affect the outcome? Without answering these and many other questions, conclusions drawn from such a study really can’t mean anything.

All of the Studies and Reports Share a Common Flaw

In addition to all the flaws noted above, there is one glaring fault that all of the research has in common: none of the studies make any mention of the type of supplements used.

Regular readers are aware that your choice of supplement can make the difference between help and harm. Some are bioavailable and some are completely inorganic. Take calcium, for example. Algae-based calcium supplements are highly absorbable, but calcium carbonate is basically ground up rocks that your body can’t use. And calcium carbonate supplements can do more harm than good.

This simple principle applies to all vitamin and mineral supplements. You just can’t expect healthy results from an inorganic, non-bioavailable product.

The Bottom Line: Balance

Isn’t it interesting that nutritional balance is just as important as physical balance in promoting good health and strong bones? It all comes down to keeping things in a state of equilibrium.

When you get confused and wonder what to believe about the latest health news, just go back to the balance principle. Mega-doses of any supplement are not a good idea, and neither is rejecting all supplements.

Instead, make the balanced choice as outlined in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program: eat healthy, antioxidant- and nutrient-rich foods in a balanced ratio of 20% acidifying and 80% alkalizing, and supplement with quality, bioavailable Foundation Supplements. It’s really quite simple if you look at it from that point of view.

In fact, the Osteoporosis Reversal Program defines osteoporosis not as a disease, but as a condition arising from an “unhealthy biochemical imbalance.” Our bodies compensate for this imbalance by utilizing calcium from our bones. Osteoporosis is your body’s attempt to tell you that it’s off-kilter.

Easy Diet and Lifestyle Changes Can Help You Reach the Desirable Equilibrium

The Program takes you step by step through the process of achieving this, with exercise tips, extensive food lists, Foundation Supplement information, and much more. And it’s all backed by scientific research.

With the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you’ll always be one step ahead of the “hype,” and articles like the one in The New York Times won’t knock you off balance.

Till next time,


1 Offit, Paul A. “Don’t Take Your Vitamins.” The New York Times. June 8, 2013. Web.

2 “The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers.” New England Journal of Medicine. 1994 Apr 14;330(15):1029-35. Web.

3 Miller, E.R. 3rd, et al. “Meta-analysis: high-dosage vitamin E supplementation may increase all-cause mortality.” Annals of Internal Medicine. 2005 Jan 4; 142(1):37-46. Epub 2004 Nov 10. Web.

4 Bjelakovic, G., et al. “Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases.” Cochrane Summaries. March 14, 2012. Web.

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. D. Andrews

    I ordered your book and I have a question: is coral calcium (sold at health food store)the same as algae-based calcium?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Good question! Coral calcium would seem “organic” since it is made by living organisms (coral). But it’s actually calcium carbonate, which is inorganic.

  2. Jennifer

    I think everyone should be aware that Paul Offit has an agenda. He wants to make sure that no one does anything except go to mainstream doctors for ALL health concerns. He wants us all to vaccinate our newborn infants, our children, teenagers and ourselves with every single vaccine they come up with. He wants us to NEVER question or second guess our mainstream medical professional’s advice. He wants us to fill every ‘script we are given, say yes to every operation and procedure including cut, poison, burn and he REALLY doesn’t want any of us to EVER look up any information about anything health-related by ourselves.

    It is surprising that anyone gives anything he says a second thought since everyone knows that he is up to his armpits in money made from vaccine sales. He is not a doctor to be trusted nor listened to. About anything.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  3. audryrw

    I am in my 80th year and have taken vitamins and minerals since I was 50, I have Osteoporosis which was discovered 4 years ago, I do not take drugs, and the only way I see a problem taking vits and minerals is if drugs are also being taken, they do not work together, my doctor offered drugs, warning me of the consequences if I didn’t take them which I refused, I eat organic, again people are trying to decry this but considering what they give animals and what they spray onto crops this is why people are sick, they do not know what is going into the food!!
    I know we need exercise, I use a rebounder (I have written about this previously) this is a very gentle form of exercise and has many benefits, worth looking at online. Health and Happiness to all.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thank you for your contribution, Audry! Good for you – you’re making your own health decisions. 🙂

  4. Stan

    Hi vivian,I feel some bone growing in my knee,any suggestion you can give me?

  5. suzan

    Hi vivian, i have tromers in my hands, please help me to get cure from it, thanks.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Suzan, I am sorry you’re experiencing that issue – it must be very difficult! However, my research is focused on osteoporosis and bone health right now, and I am not a doctor. 🙂 Please see your doctor about what’s causing your hand tremors, and hopefully he or she will be supportive of a natural approach for you.

  6. walter a.

    hi vivian i think you are on the right track, and i also think that you should get intouch with the shacklee foundation i think you might thank me if you do,. walter a.

  7. walter a.

    i have found over the years i have been taking shaklee vitamins, and to me there a mirical, i have seen miricals hapen with them.

  8. shula

    Taking the vitamins in the right dose, the right combination (so that they won’t compete with each other), in the right time, from the right company, makes it a real challenge, with no clear picture of what helps, what’s beneficial, and what’s not.


  9. JPL

    Similar to Mike’s comment below, I also “tried to order the Drs books on arthritis but unable because website won’t accept” Canadian address.

    Take care,

  10. Barbara McCauley

    I have osteo in my right knee. I tried to get more info on Dr. Steven Sinatra re: your article 0n 6-27-13 but did not have any luck. I would greatly appreciate your help as I just foundout that the cartilage on the right side of my knee is almost all gone. Thankyou, Barbara McCauley

    • walter a.

      i am not a doctor, so i can not advise you on wut to do, all i know is that no mater what your sickness is shaklee vitimins will defenately help (sorry for my spelling) walter a.

  11. Jan Church

    Hi Vivian,

    In Sept 2012 I had a bone Density done with a T-score of -2.3 in the lumber spine representing a 5.2% increase since 2006.

    Conclusion: I had decreased bone mineral density,osteopenia, low 10 year fracture risk with an increase in the lumbar spine bone mineral density since the previous examination in 2006.

    On 15 January I saw my medical oncologist and she changed me from Tamoxifen to Letrazol. I am a breast cancer survivor. Decreased Bone Density was a side effect of the Letrazol and that made me high risk.

    I was on the Letrazol for 3 months and then had another Bone Density done on 8 April 2013 with Lumbar spine bone density T-score -2.4

    In conclusion:
    Low Bone Mass, formerly osteopenia.

    I came off the Letrazole right then, and at the same time started using Algae Cal.

    I have followed The Save our Bones program for a while now and eat more calcium rich foods and try to keep my food intake more alkaline than Acetic.

    I was on Cal Mag plus D for years. One must continue to keep informed.

    I`m looking for a better than ever Bone density result at the next test.


    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Jan, I wish you a full and speedy recovery, and please feel free to let us know how you progress!

  12. Maria J.Mckenney

    Hi Vivian, Thanks, for your consejos….About Vitamins. What can I do, I have to stop, to taike Vitamins. I am not taking multiv, any more, Can I stop to take Betacarotene, Vit. E. Vitam C..Please teld me. Maria J.Mckenney

    • suzan

      Hi suzan, please i want your help, i have a tromers in my hand, how can i cured of it, thanks in advance and this is not the first time i aske the question, please help me

  13. Joyce Hall

    Want to Save Your Bones? Quality of Vitamins and diet are significant. My example is ME. I took Vitamins many years with little knowledge of how they would help and/or what they were for??? I found out that diet and exercise are very important. I found that walking everyday and some inside bends and twists are helpful in maintaining good strong bones. Taking supplements that are vegetable grown. Raw whole food Calcium has helped me the most and I increased my bone density significantly. I went from an Osteoporosis Diagnoses to An Osteopenia diagnoses. I had a significant Bone Density Increase after one year with Vivian. I used the “SaveOurBones” Program created by Vivian Goldschmidt along with Vivian’s “Save Our Bones Community. She has been right there every step of the way as I read, listened to readers comments, and included many of her recipes, and suggestions concerning Bone Health. Thanks Vivian and keep me informed. I’m a believer and an example of those things Vivian said would help me.
    They sure did! Best Regards, Joyce Hall

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thanks so much for sharing the wonderful news and your experiences with us, Joyce! I also thank you for your kind words 🙂

      Keep building your bones!

  14. Marie Wilson

    Hi Vivian – Thank you for the weekly e-mails and information. I wanted to inform you that Health Canada has posted a warning about Prolio regarding atypical fractures of the femur. I have refused to take it and told my rheumatologist if he could guarantee I wouldn’t have the fracture I would change my mind. Of course I know he can’t. Instead I have joined a fitness centre that has a special programme for seniors with osteoporis. I also follow your diet. It was your programme that helped me say no to osteoporosis drugs. My next bone density is next January and I will let you know the results. Thanks, Marie

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Keep us posted, Marie! I am so glad you are confident in your decision. 🙂

  15. ken osborn

    1) the purpose of randomizing the control and experimental groups is to equally distribute all factors except for those tested, in this case the vitamins. If, for example, 1000 individuals were in a study and only 200 had good health the final distribution would be roughly 100 with good health in the experimental group and roughly 100 in the control group, 400 not so great health in the experimental and 400 in the control group. Now these distributions will not be exact and that will be part of the error of the test which will be expressed as a statistic.

    2) all studies on vitamin e that I’ve read (and I haven’t read them all) either do not state what form of vitamin e was used or it was alpha-tocopherpherol. There are many forms of vitamin e, with alpha, beta, delta, and gamma being the most common. If you take the alpha form exclusively it probably will cause an increase in cardiovascular problems because it competes with the gamma isomer.

    3) chemically nitric oxide (NO) acts as an oxidizing agent (i.e., free radical). NO is an essential vaso-dialator and in large quantities can be inflammatory. Chemically vitamin e is a reducing agent (i.e., anti-oxidant) and it will act on nitric oxide as such. While there have been some studies on the interactions vitamin e and nitric oxide, I have seen none that have examined the redox chemistry implications.

  16. Pat Schmidt

    I asked a question several days ago to your staff and was told I would get a reply but have not. I asked if cottage cheese is alkaline like plain yogurt or acidic like cheese. I didn’t find it on your list of acidifying/ acididc list of foods. I’m trying to follow the right balance. Please reply. Thank you, Pat

    • Customer Support

      Hi Pat – we received your email; please check your inbox for our reply. 🙂

  17. flo

    I agree that a balanced approach is best. Although I eat an alkaline diet, exercise and strength train, and use high quality, bioavailable foundation supplements, there are many people who eat acidic diets, with no supplements, and minimal exercise who never develop osteoporosis. The bottom line is WHY?

    I shall continue to be proactive in fighting the condition of “osteoporosis”, but would love to know why some, possibly less healthy individuals, never experience loss of bone.

    • Joan

      I agree with you June.I know lots of people who eat ,drink @be merry @ don’t have Osteoporosis so unfare when you are doing all the right things.

  18. Marion

    Is there a plant based calcium supplement that doesn’t have strontium in it?

  19. Cathie Dearing

    It seems almost impossible to find the supplements that provide balance. How much vitamin d3 is too much? My daily mega-food multi vitamin and true-osteo calcium daily dose contain 1400IU’s combined, and yet the magnesium only comes to 64mg. I also take the ubiquinol and fish oil that Vivian recommends. I’m wondering if there is a better bioavailable multivitamin that Vivian recommends?

    • Customer Support

      Cathie, for specific supplement questions, please feel free to drop us a line at customer service. Just click on the smiley face icon at the top of the page. 🙂

  20. Joyce Hall

    Yeah Vivian, I am a believer…. I guess that does sound a little Hooky???? My proof is documented. After joining the SaveOurBones Program, two years ago, I increased my bone density level significantly by following the Save our Bones program. I must confess, I am a doubting Thomas when it comes to any Pill or Diet. My reason is related to the exact article you are presenting for discussion today. Authored by Dr. Paul Offit, warning about the dangers of “large quantities” of supplemental vitamins. “Today, we’ll dissect Dr. Offit’s claims”. I am glad that I researched You and Your Claim concerning Saving Our Bones. You are right on. I pay attention to what your research tells me. Reason is because It works. Reason two, it is well studied by you before you make ridiculous claims that can’t be helpful or in some ways are not true. Thank you Vivian for sharing with me. Thank you for sharing with those of us that need more studies debunked before someone believes the fantasy.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Joyce, I am so glad you wrote in to tell us about your progress! How wonderful that your bone density increased, and that you appreciate and enjoy the information. 🙂

  21. Rodney Malkoff

    There is a new device being developed / or has been developed by a company called Biozoom which measures antioxidant level, vitamin absorption and other useful items of information about ones body. Is this for real? If it is it could provide very useful information for saving our bones.


    Rodney Malkoff

  22. Nancy

    The reports of the studies do not report whether the supplements are synthetic. See a study inLife Extension, March 2012, “Synthetic Alpha Tocopherol Shown to Increase Prostate Cancer Risk”.

    • Kathryn

      Also on the Beta Carotene study and the lung cancer. The supplement was synthetic in that Finnish study and synthetic is not good. Always get whole food supplements. That is what our bodies need, and can absorb, real food .Neolife Supplements are great!!! They are whole food. Give them a try.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Exactly, Nancy!

  23. Lia de Koning Gans

    I would like to order your book .Why can’t I do this from the Netherlands?

    • Customer Support

      Lia, we do ship to the Netherlands. 🙂 Please contact us at customer support so we can help you out. To send us an e-mail, please click on the smiley face icon at the top of the page. Thanks!

  24. Kay

    I disagree with your comments about the randomness of the sample of Finnish men. 29,000 a big enough sample to allow for other factors. However extrapolating from a study of smokers to the rest of the population is not valid. THere may well be something in the blood of smokers which interacts with the action of vitamin E.
    The meta-study is different. They actually looked at 68 trials out of a total of 815. That is a relatively small sample, although the numbers of people in the trials was sigificant. Your comment about the unknown quality and origin of the suplements is completely valid.

  25. Aaron

    Thanks for your posting of *flaws* in some recent clinical research reporting that antioxidants like vitamin E probably increase mortality.

    Although I am inclined to believe in your conclusion that your viewers should ignore these reports, I think you are too easily dismissing the researchers’ conclusion that expresses their concern of antioxidant toxicity.

    The “flaws” you listed include: A) small trials, B) random subjects (many of them ill), C) unknown quality of vitamins and antioxidants used.

    A) Small trials – I used your listing of references to access the relevant journal articles, and discovered that in one of the reports, 136,000 subjects (participants) were used over 19 trials. In another, 232,606 subjects were used over 68 trials. If one assumes, for the sake of reducing this quantitative information to a workable starting point for discussion, trial sizes were approximately equal, that would show about four to seven thousand subjects per trial. How is that “small”? Of course, they are not huge trials, and to the researchers’ credit, they admitted that some of the trials were “small.” Apparently researchers decided that, overall, trials were probably large enough to count as preliminary trials for revealing patterns and the foundation for further research, such as repeating it with larger-population trials, healthier subjects, and with more technologically advanced supplements (enhanced absorption formulations).
    B) Random Subjects – Isn’t randomness one of the foundations of unbiased experiments? It is often used to take into account expected deviations and assure a statistically valid average. The researchers stated that many of the subjects were chronically ill; they undoubtedly took reasonable and ethical advantage of informed and willing patients that were available in their clinics and hospitals; and carefully screening them to stay within the guidelines specified by government regulations (IRBs, institutional review board rules); and to satisfy the criteria set by their protocols for controls appropriate for scientific investigations.

    My guess is that the researchers reasoned that their investigations were limited, but not flawed.

    C) Unknown quality of vitamins – It is disappointing that there is not any mention of the source of their vitamins, or their form, or bioavailability. My guess is that vitamin quality was no less than the quality of prescription or over-the-counter substances known to be already commonly taken by many of their patients. But there is no reason to deduce, regardless of the vitamin’s quality, that appropriate controls were not applied in order to allow the researchers to notice measurable trends that might appear in their data for that vitamin.

    My guess is that the researchers reasoned that their investigations were limited, but not flawed.

    • Kathryn

      The Finnish study was done with synthetics..this is a fact!

      • Aaron

        I believe the use of synthetic vitamins would not necessarily invalidate scientifically conducted (controlled) trials. Nothing could convincingly critically evaluate this statement except a set of parallel experiments in which a large population sample of human subjects followed carefully controlled diets of vitaminE-rich FOODS – which, unfortunately, probably has never been done! Does anyone know of such a study??

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thanks for your feedback, Aaron. You raise some thought-provoking points, and your contribution is an excellent example of the independent thought process that we encourage on this site. 🙂

  26. marlene

    Go tell that to Linus Pauling or Dr.Archie Kalerkrinos who saved heaps of Australian babies after vaccinations with Vitamin C.Funny that B 12 is used by doctors, and Vitamin D so low in the population.Just another scheme to make vitamins medically prescribed only.
    Just thought about Captain James Cook giving his sailors lime juice.They just write material for the retail market and have little knowledge of nutrition.

  27. Michael Connery

    Tried to order the Drs books on arthritis but unable because website won’t accept Australian address.



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