By Julia Belluz
For years, public health experts have practically begged people to stop wasting money on dietary supplements.
For one, many of these pills don’t work. Study after study has demonstrated that favorites like multivitamins don’t actually improve outcomes on a number of health measures, from staving off cognitive decline to preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer. The health benefits of probiotics are wildly exaggerated, and taking antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamin E might even kill you faster.
And because of lax regulation, there are well-documented concerns about supplement quality and adulteration. Supplement makers don’t need to prove their products are effective or even safe before putting them on store shelves. That means there’s no way to know that what’s in your pill bottle works, or even that it contains what it promises on the label.
A Vox review of government databases, court documents, and scientific studies uncovered more than 850 products that contained illegal and/or hidden ingredients — including banned drugs, pharmaceuticals like antidepressants, and other synthetic chemicals that have never been tested on humans.
The lesson is simple: Unless you have a specific medical condition diagnosed by your doctor — like a vitamin deficiency — you should stop wasting money on these products.