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The Vitamin Scam

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

Most of the time when we talk about healthcare costs we are referring to the cost of going to the doctor, emergency room or prescription medicine. It is without question that we as consumers spend a lot of money each year on high deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance and more to ensure when we have access and some coverage for when we get sick. 

Preventative medicine and self care trends are key data analyzed by insurers to gauge the cost of care year. The theory being the more people control their health through healthy eating, exercising and self-care to stay well and deal with minor illness themselves the less likely they are to visit an emergency room. Since the time I’ve worked in healthcare the needle of this metric has seldom if ever moved downward. This metric often shows utilization of care such as going to the doctor continues to increase each year and we fill more and more prescriptions as well further increasing the cost.

Despite that, the messages of self care, preventative medicine and care continue to be pushed onto consumers as a way to manage these costs. As a result, over the counter medicines and vitamins have exploded in terms of options available and cost points to fit every imaginable family budget for self-care needs.  The vitamin industry alone is a $36.1 Billion dollar industry in the United States. Next to pharmaceuticals it is one of the largest health related industries in terms of growth and sales with no signs of slowing down. 

The Rise of the Flintstones

People never used to take vitamins or supplements of any kind. Part of this was due to most people growing their own foods and we were generally getting the majority of what we needed from our diets. We ate whole foods that were often homemade and contained very few pesticides and chemicals. Convenience food such as fast food restaurants and prepackaged frozen meals were just taking off as a way to support busy families as a new trend of both parents working outside the home started to occur. 

In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960’s another form of convenience also started to grow with the marketing of vitamins. Vitamins were introduced as a way to supplement what people ate to ensure they received the daily recommended needs of necessary vitamins and minerals. People flocked to vitamins because it was considered healthy and wise to ensure we, including our children, were getting the right essential minerals since we were able to no longer count on as many home meals. By the 1970’s Flintstones children’s vitamins and One Day Adult Vitamins were in almost every home. Marketing of these vitamins started to include popular TV characters like the Flintstones to remind children and moms to take their vitamin every day.

Today, vitamins have expanded to include every single and combination of minerals and vitamins known with aisles of them on the shelf in every major retailer. There are even independent stores with just vitamins!

Do They Work?

Looking at the Flintstones Vitamin label leaves much to be concerned about in terms of what it does to support your child’s health. Similar concerns can be seen by looking at adult daily vitamins. Most of the ingredients in both are man-made synthetics that do nothing to help our health.