If you've been up for a while, and had the chance to read the Sunday Review section of today's NewYork Times, you may have seen an article entitled “Don't Take Your Vitamins.” If you haven't read it, please do.
It will tell you two things. First, taking antioxidants, particlarly in large quantities, is not a great idea. The author, a physician, relies on studies that show disturbing results. Not only did anti-oxidants not help certain populations–they actually hurt by bringing on cancers.
Good to know, and interesting from a scientific standpoint. But the author's second point is disturbing in the way that makes you want to shout out loud, or break something. The dangers of large doses of supplemental antioxidants are not well known to most Americans, because that's the way the vitamin manufacturing industry wants it. In 1972, the FDA proposed a bill that would have regulated supplements that contained over 150% of the recommended daily allowance. But the industry tapped a Democratic Senator, William Proxmire, who created a bill preventing the FDA from engaging in exactly that type of regulation, and in 1976, it became law.
As the author, Dr. Paul A. Offit, warns: “As a result, consumers don't know that taking megavitamins could increase their risk of cancer and heart disease and shorten their lives.”
So here we have yet another example of corporate America doing its very best to keep profits high, even if it means endangering the health of consumers by keeping them in the dark. This is one of the founding tenets underlying “tort reform.” Remember when Philip Morris maintained cigarettes did not cause cancer? When Ford maintained the Pinto was safe? When Chrysler, this very week, maintained that its Jeeps were safe, despite regular instances of passengers being incinerated while driving them?
It is all about avoiding accountability to the American consumer. And in keeping with such insidious, profit-driven tactics, corporate America, the biggest collective supporter of the “tort reform” lie, does not like to disclose dangers associated with its products voluntarily. In most cases, it has required the intervention of plaintiffs' lawyers, because we talk in the only language corporate America understands: money. It is only when they see the potential threat to their bottom line that a lawsuit could bring that the pendulum swings toward consumer safety, and away from Swiss bank accounts.