Serious Concerns About Supplement Safety: Can Vitamins Be Dangerous?

You bet they can.

A recent exposé on PBS Frontline delved into the question of supplements and safety. The report delved into the unregulated world of the multibillion dollar business of vitamins and supplements. They discussed horror stories of people experiencing everything from mild side effects to liver failure from their vitamins. They called into question the safety and the utility of so many of the common products found in retail stores everywhere. They cited numerous examples of how these products can cause great harm.

Their findings were no surprise to us.

In fact, their findings are something we had already found out for ourselves years ago. As two practicing MDs, we knew that the vitamin and supplement industry was not regulated by the FDA as prescription medications are. We already know that what the label says is in the bottle often is not correct. A bottle labeled as X may actually contain no substance X. Yet there may be plenty of substance Y in there even if that ingredient is not listed on the label. And Y might be a steroid, or an amphetamine, a prescription drug or an unwanted hormone or toxin. This is scary stuff. The State of Oregon is in fact suing some major vitamin retailers because certain products have been found to contain illegal ingredients.

And yes, we have seen patients end up in the ICU from taking unsafe supplements. We have also seen people on the liver transplant list from taking well made supplements in improper doses. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that there are more than 23,000 ER visits annually related to supplement toxicity.  As physicians, we realize that not only can supplements be dangerous because of the lack of oversight in their manufacturing, but also the lack of knowledge in how to take them properly.

Part of what makes this topic particularly confusing is that the answers are not the same for everybody. We do not all need to take the same vitamins to be our healthiest. We have different needs based on our diets, lifestyle, and health history. A vitamin in a certain dose may be helpful to one person but harmful to another.

So how does one know what is safe to take or not take? The answer is complicated. Finding a trusted source is your best bet.

It was our mission in writing The Vitamin Solution and creating Vous Vitamin to help clear confusion about the role of vitamins and health. We believe that an individualized approach to vitamins based on sound medical research is the proper way to improve one’s health. allows our customers to take a detailed interactive survey about their diet and other factors to help them get a Personalized Multivitamin tailored to their unique needs.

We worked hard to create products that are safe and contain pure ingredients. While the industry may remain largely unregulated, we chose to register our products with the FDA. We stand by the quality of our vitamins and their contents as we bear the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) seal which independently verifies the purity of the product. We also worked hard to create products containing vitamins that are scientifically proven to be useful and effective in treating and preventing health conditions.

As physicians we felt it was very important to help people find the right combination of nutrients to optimize their health. Vous Vitamin does just that with high quality and trustworthy products.

Come, Find Your Vous…

Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health.  She is a mother of three teenagers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients.  After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take,  Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin quiz now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice.  The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment.  You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.




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