Take Your Vitamins?

In March, 2006, Wall Street Journal Tara Parker-Pope wrote a counter-intuitive article titled “The Case Against Vitamins.” (I found a copy that is not behind the subscription wall.) She writes

“Over the past several years, studies that were expected to prove dramatic benefits from vitamin use have instead shown the opposite. Beta carotene was seen as a cancer fighter, but it appeared to promote lung cancer in a study of former smokers. Too much vitamin A, sometimes taken to boost the immune system, can increase a woman’s risk for hip fracture. A study of whether vitamin E improved heart health showed higher rates of congestive heart failure among vitamin users. And there are growing concerns that antioxidants, long viewed as cancer fighters, may actually promote some cancer and interfere with treatments.”

The Washington Post’s health section featured an article titled “Multi Vitamins, Multi Questions” about a recent conclusion by “a federal panel that there’s no evidence to recommend for or against these dietary supplements.” The article is worth reading because it seeks to put the findings in context.

These articles remind me of a scene from Woody Allen’s 1973 movie “Sleeper” in which Woody awakes from a Rip Van Winkle length nap to find that eating red meat and smoking are now endorsed by the American Medical Association.

When I was a senior in college many years ago, I took a course on the future of the world. It was very Malthusian — warning of the coming population explosion. (My word, the 1970’s were a very depressing time.) Thirty years provides one with perspective. I therefore enjoyed reading my friend Robert Samuelson’s column in today’s Washington Post titled “Behind the Birth Dearth.” I commend it to you.