(Note: None of this blog should replace the advice of your physician. Do what they tell you to do.)
I am continually astounded at the number of dietary supplements, herbal products, and vitamins that my patients are on. Either through recommendations from friends, advertisements or endorsements from alternative health providers, well-meaning patients can quickly end up on a cornucopia of products. They often believe that they are making sound investments in their health, hoping to buy longevity. Little do they know that the overwhelming majority of these products have minimal or no evidence to support their use.
I won’t spend an entire post recapping the evidence against supplements, but here are a few good summaries about multivitamins, omega-3 supplements, and child supplements, Bottom line is, most of what our patients are taking are completely useless, and will do nothing except separate them from their money.
Frustratingly, despite my repeated advice to stop their supplements, patients are still sometimes reluctant to do so. Pleas to evidence often do not work, so let’s make a plea to their social conscience.
We all have social causes that are important to us, yet we have a limited amount of money to support these causes. What better way to find additional money to donate to these projects than to give them the money we would’ve otherwise spent on useless supplements.
Here’s my challenge to anyone who buys any of these products. At your next visit with your physician, bring all of your over the counter products and ask whether there is good evidence to support their use. (Note: You should definitely continue anything that a physician has instructed you to take, including vitamin D, prenatal vitamins, ASA, calcium, and any other specific instructions you have been given.) Take all of the products that you no longer need to take, and figure out how much they cost you per month. Multiply that by the number of months between now and the end of December. Pick your favourite LOCAL charity. Make a commitment to donate that amount in mid-December to that charity in time for the holidays.
Here’s what I can guarantee. You will feel much better about yourself donating that money than any improvement you would have seen from the unnecessary supplements.
Supplements make up a $32 billion industry every year. Feel free to share this with friends, and let’s see how much of that money we can redirect to worthy causes. Share any planned donations to charities in the comments!