Death by Prescription


We are in  the middle of a series of posts debunking the mythology and stigma around taking nutritional supplements. We have shown that supplementing a healthy diet is not only necessary to make up the nutritional gaps in our degraded food supply, but there is volumes of data showing that it effectively helps prevent chronic diseases.

This material is an edited version of a powerful little booklet that got my attention many years ago. Robert G. Allen’s, “Your Health Is In Danger!” is a provocative title, that would get most people’s attention, and it is my hope it gets  yours too.

In this post, we will look at the third myth.

Myth #3. Vitamins can be dangerous in large doses.

I often hear silly statements like, “Vitamins in large doses are toxic” or “My doctor told me they’re not safe.” Are doctors a reliable source regarding the validity of nutritional supplements? The truth is, they received zero training in medical school on nutrition. Even today, most medical schools offer only one class in nutrition, but that class is optional. So, rather than believing in gossip and rumor, let’s look at the facts.

Just how safe are supplements? As compared to what? Let’s compare vitamins to prescription drugs. Guess how many people die each year as a result of doctor prescribed prescription drugs. According to the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),in a shocking 1998 article, 106,000 people die each year! What? 106,000 deaths a year! You read correctly. These patients died because of adverse drug reactions – reactions to properly prescribed and administered medications. The authors of the JAMA article concluded that these totals have not changed significantly over the past thirty years (but the numbers have no doubt gone up since that time).


I own a copy of the book “Death by Prescription” by Ray D. Strand, M.D. Not only do these stats come from his research, but the book is filled with horror stories of real people who died because of a drug approval system that is far from fool proof. According to Dr. Strand, “America’s number four killer (after heart disease, cancer and stroke) is adverse drug reactions to “properly” prescribed medication, with more than  100,000 estimated deaths per year. And if you add the 80,000 deaths caused by “improperly” prescribed or administered medication, adverse drug events become the number three leading cause of death in this country.”


Now, guess how many people die each year taking vitamins. Zero!

According to Dr. Michael Colgan, “Used in any sensible amounts, vitamins and minerals are about as toxic as apple pie.”

Of course, if you’re currently being treated with prescription drugs or under a doctor’s care, you should always check with your physician to see how your treatment may react with your supplements. But, for the vast majority of us, vitamins are extremely safe.

“But Taking all those pills is such a hassle.”

Some people are not worried so much about safety. They just think that taking vitamins is a plain nuisance. They say things like, “They’re such a hassle….so many pills and bottles. I just can’t remember to take them all.” or “I can’t swallow them. They’re too big.” or “They taste nasty or they upset my stomach or they give me diarrhea.”

When I hear this, I just look at them, chuckle and say, “If you think you’ve got diarrhea now, wait until you’re on chemotherapy.” Or, “If you think taking pills is a hassle, try quadruple by-pass surgery.” I’ve read what the research says and I’m not going a single day without taking my vitamin and mineral supplements. I don’t care what I have to do…. crush them up and drink them with my orange juice, set an alarm to remind me, whatever it takes. I don’t miss a single day. After what I’ve read, I believe my life depends on it.

Now at this point, you may be patting yourself on the back, because  you are in the two thirds majority of the population who are educated enough to actually go out and pick up a bottle of vitamins. But are you getting what you’re paying for? Are all supplements created equal?  Is it OK to sell your health to the lowest bidder and pick up the cheapest bottle? Isn’t it good enough to take one a day?

Ahh, so many questions. But that’s for another post.  Another myth!

Myth #4. All nutritional supplements are the same.

Be Well,

Ken Waite

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