Do Vitamin Pills Really Work?

By Jim F

The International Herald Tribune presents an interesting piece on the value of vitamin pills. Adequate vitamin intake is the foundation of good nutrition, and nearly every person who restricts calories in some way is advised to take a multi-vitamin pill or supplement. The article questions whether the vitamins found in a pill are as effective as those in food?

“What you can buy in a bottle doesn’t come close to providing you with the wealth of benefits that come automatically when those nutrients are present in the form of food,” said Linda Van Horn, a research nutritionist at Northwestern University in Chicago.

The argument is controversial and much of the content in the article relates to the efficacy of large doses of vitamins. The question is asked: if fruit and vegetables contain large amounts of healthful nutrients – couldn’t they be extracted out into a concentrated pill?

“It’s a very plausible hypothesis,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “However, when submitted to rigorous testing, it has not held up.” She called it “an oversimplified view.”

It’s astonishing that even with all the advances in medical science and technology – we still seem to be at a complete loss when it comes to understanding nutrition. Every scientist that presents a theory will always find another researcher presenting a contrasting view.

However, one theme seems to come through from this article – food in it’s whole, un-manipulated and various forms – is the greatest supplement of all. Personally, I’m not sure if this is correct. Vitamins are like an insurance policy – you pay your premiums never knowing if you’ll get your moneys worth. Is it possible to eat a nutritionally correct diet (for YOUR body and lifestyle) without any form of supplementation?

Filed in Supplements


  1. patrick

    What you need to keep in mind too is that Good health makes alot of sence . but it doesent make ALot of Dollars . the Medical buisness makes over ½ trillion $ a year selling you all a Pill for a ill .. they pay off all the firms testing these pills and half the time they Own the them too . If everyone found out the truth about good health they would go Bankrupt . So it only makes sence for them to Scare people saying taking all these vitamins might be bad for you or does not work at all .. If you checked history ALOT of people have actually found vitamins to be very powerfull In aiding the body even recover from very serious ilness .. but it seems out modern society has forgotten .. Now we just visit the doctor and gett a pill .. I suggest you watch the Movie ” Food does matter ” its logic (and yes i aint english so i realise there is Errors in my Spelling ) but the point is the same …. ( and noone said vitamins are supposed to fix whatever diet your eating .. you take vitamins along with a healthy diet to be 100& sure your covered )

  2. Ian

    I assume cheap vitamin pills in my opinion to be more harm than good. The production process is not as good as expensive pills, the cheap pills could be more harm than good particulary if you take them for many years. How do you know there is not low levels of toxins or weedkiller in the cheap ones? They are not exactly organic are they? There is a big difference in price between the best and the worst.

  3. lili

    Good heavens what an emotional display. If something works for you(or you think it does-placebos are used in vitamin studies too.) use it. If not-don’t. This article was discussing dietary SUPPLEMENTATION. Of course people are going to start going on about what works best for them in the hopes that it works for others.

    Those that whine and cry because the “industry” makes too much of that good, unhealthy food or that your grocer sells food with too many additives and pesticides-guess what you can do? STOP BUYING FROM THEM. EN MASSE. The second people stop buying an item the faster “those in charge” will adapt.

  4. Stephen


    I am a Transformation Trainer. To answer your question about “diets, ” yes you will always be on a diet. All of us are on a diet. I hate the concept used in the weight loss marketing, insinuating that a weight loss diet is something special. I have worked with people at all levels of fitness and athletics. The sooner you realize that you will forever be on a “diet” the better off you will be and you can begin that life changing journey of transformation.

    Many people use supplements for their weight loss program and I beleive that is ok. The key to supplementation is that you don’t view it as the secret. There is no magic bullet. The fitness / weight loss industry has done a wonderful job of creating mass confusion about weight loss. They want you to feel as though you must come to them for this need in your life.

    I do not work with every person that request my services. There are a number of factors that contribute to one’s success or failure in achieving their optimum level of fitness and BMI (body mass index). Success in this journey is not measured by how much you lose but rather did you transform yourself to be the best you, you can be. Without a true transformation you will only find yourself back on the weight loss yo-yo.

    I have been in this business for more than 30 years and have helped thousands of people, but only those who were will, able and ready to change their life.

    Good Luck on your journey.

  5. Janine

    I think the best multivitamins on the market are Centrum and Sanatogen A-Z. Boots is also a very reputable company to get your vitamins from.

    I don’t know where people get the idea that you need to be taking handfuls of pills everyday, read the label-you are only supposed to take ONE A DAY. Please follow the manufacturers instructions, overdosing on vitamin pills can cause side-effects and make you feel ill. Also, taking too many vitamins can deplete body levels of other nutrients.
    You don’t need to be taking handfuls of pills at all. An A-Z multivitamin and mineral is more than enough, that’s just one little tablet.

    A vitamin pill should only supplement your diet, they are not designed to provide optimum nutrition in one pill. You have to eat a healthy, varied diet in addition to taking a supplement. I feel fantastic on Centrum or Sanatogen as I vary my brands now and again. Taking one small pill a day is a small price to pay for being healthy.

  6. rob

    wow….. Vitamins don’t work. They don’t help you live longer. I understand there is some sceptism, but take just ONE group of vitams. B vitamins. They help your body realease energy. You know to get off the couch, or the $$$$ comptuer and do some sittups, bike up a moutnain. LIFT wieghts. If dont take any form of vitamins, then lets say I can bench 80kg 10 times. Then I take some B12 and B6, it will reaslease the energy in my cells, and I can lift 80kg 13 times. Those 3 reps will build bigger muscles. Bigger muscles will improve my matabolism, making me live longer, they will help me burn fat faster, making me live longer. More muslce mass also has means if I get in any anykind of tramtic accident, shot with a bullet, or a car wreck my chances of living are higher. Muscles protects the body better than fat, and if I surgens can work with and cut through muscle to find a ingury better than fat. Thats just ONE GROUP of vitamins. do you people actully excersise, or work out or aim to live better and longer and healther. Well… if you do then eat right, AND take a vitamin. I eat nothing but whey protien, eggs, bran, veggtables, fruit, chicken, beef, and salmon. Thats it!!!! If I thought I got all the vitamns I needed to go do my best at work and the gym I would be a fool. If you actully aim to improve your body, your mind, and your life, then you use up FAR more vitamins than the RDA recomends. That is for lazy people who sit at the computer (well radio all day since it was formulated 50 years ago!!!!!)
    be smart. there is no conspiracies, there are crappy vitamns and good ones. Find a good one. take. hell.. take two a day. its only going to help you. AND extra vitams that you piss out are good for you becuase they help prevent cancer, but some might think that doesnt make you live longer.
    You want a simple test. take some pills, some differnt glasses of water. drop one pill in each glass of water. time how fast they break apart. notice your Rx pills, the ones your docter gives you disolves in a few minutes. I had a few that dissovled in 10 sec completly. now take a couple differnt over the counter stuff. tylonl. pretty fast. now your vitams. once a day centrien. one hour!!! you just crap it out. Try natures made. about 20 minutes. thats good, but stomach acid may eat up a lot of the good stuff. over 30 to 45 min. even worse.
    and if you actully excersice, and want to improve your body, which you should do everyday of your life till you die. then take more than the RDA cause you fruits and vegtables and meats dont have what you need.

  7. usana

    What made you think that things like this don’t work well? Have you ever thought what other medicine you take for serious problem which is natural…

  8. Jeff Patterson

    John has a point , Vitamins are good but not perfect eating the right foods is much better than depriving your body from natural supplements, only to take them in tablet orcapsule form , I recently saw an interview with Jack Lalane and he was asked the secret to longevity and he said eat only things that are not man made and you will get tall the nutrients you need.

    So in short supplements may be good but nothing beats natural.

  9. didutakeyours

    If you take vitamins and supplements everyday, you know that it is a bother to deal with all of the bottles and pills. I’m really not motivated enough to sort everything I take into one of those organizers either. That’s why I really like this company – Vitamins On Demand. Basically, you set up your vitamin pack (which is really simple since they have everything broken down into health concerns), choose the Auto-Ship service and they’ll send you your vitamins every 4 weeks. All packs contain at least 1,000 IU of Vitamin D3. Here’s the cool thing. They come in this calendar pack that’s marked with each day and everyday has all of the vitamins you should take. I never forget to take them anymore. Check it out at:

  10. Cathy

    I’ve researched food-based vitamins and it appears the the absorption rate is much higher than those processed in labs using chemicals. Not to mention, they are much easier to digest and do not upset my stomach. I used to take one One-A-Days and switched to “be balanced women’s multivitamins”. They are food based and contain herbs. I bought them online at and noticed they don’t cost much more than the chemical vitamins you can find anywhere. Plus, I like the positive vibe I get from the company.