Why Vitamins Are A Waste Of Your Money

Why Vitamins Are A Waste Of Your Money

Visit any supermarket, chemist or health food store and you’ll see a confusingly large range of multi-vitamin products. Resist being confused and resist being them altogether — research by CHOICE suggests that many Australians pointlessly purchase vitamins and don’t understand the effects or dosage requirements of those they do take.

Picture by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that if you have a balanced diet, you don’t need supplements. Only 37 per cent of Australians regularly purchase vitamins, Roy Morgan Research commissioned by CHOICE suggests, but that still leaves millions of us buying them even though we’re often not clear on what those pills contain and why they need it.

Confusing strategies used by vitamin manufacturers highlighted by CHOICE include:

  • Using a mixture of vitamin names and chemical names (such as Vitamin B3 and niacin, both of which are the same thing).
  • Varying packaging with identical ingredients (a common strategy with products aimed at children).
  • Multiple brands from the same manufacturer (Swisse produces 16 different lines, Nature’s Way produces 11, and Blackmores and Nature’s Own have eight lines).
  • CHOICE’s research suggests the typical Australian vitamin consumer can spend between 20 cents to 70 cents a day on their habit, money which could be better deployed elsewhere in many cases. As CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just put it: “If you have a healthy diet and you’re not a person with specific nutritional requirements, there’s a good chance you’re wasting your money.”

    Examples where supplements can make sense can include Vitamin D if you lack sun exposure, B12 if you are on a strict vegan diet, and folate if you’re pregnant and trying to conceive. However, most of us don’t fall into any of these categories. The Department of Health and Ageing offers a comprehensive guide to food sources for the vitamins you need.



    • You beat me to it.
      I’d probably be healthier with a cocktail of vitamins, because I eat sooo poorly. And I have trouble affording anything better…

      • That is just a plain old cop out. Health food does not cost a thing more!
        1 full lettuce, 4 tomatoes, 1 capsicum, 1 onion, one block of cheese, couple of carrots and some salad dressing would cost you in total around $25 for around 3-5 meals. Typical meal at McDonalds…. $7. Multiply that by 3-5 = $21 – $35. I don’t eat healthy all the time but when you do the maths, I cannot agree with your statement.

  • Over nutrition is not necessarily a good thing. Your body needs to break down the additional nutrition and thus an additional stress on the metabolic systems. Hello liver and kidney problems.

    • Obviously you’re not a doctor. Unless you overdose on vitamins to the extent that they reach toxic levels, there’s no such thing as “over nutrition”.

    • Omega-3 fatty acids are not something most people get a lot of in a regular Australian diet. If you feel they are helping, you should keep taking them.

    • Don’t quote me but glucosamine apparently lacks clinical proof that it helps with arthritis, though omega3s in fish oil helps with arthritis. To get medical effect you might have to take more than the recommended dosage on the jar, so check with your doc/pharmacist.

    • I’ve been a competitive tennis player for the past 18 years of my life. I’ve been taking GC for the past 3 years (because of knee damage), and I can tell you hand-over-heart that it works for me. It’s not a placebo effect – I’ve been through many a varied treatment from physiotherapy to acupuncture to botox injections to no-carbs-after-3pm, and GC is the only thing that has provide me with any results.

      That doesn’t mean it will work for you, but it works for me.

      Side note: for those of us with ladyparts, Evening Primrose Oil is NOT an old wives’ tale. Just sayin’.

    • yes stop..stop everything you are doing..make sure you don’t do anything that someone who you don’t know on a blog, who most likely has no bloody qualifications tells you to stop. so there you have it. just stop

  • I’m amazed that Choice actually bothered to write that ‘article’, but they were very flawed in their conclusions.

    Reading the article, they say that:
    – Too much of certain vitamins can be harmful.
    – You shouldn’t replace a healthy diet with vitamins.
    – The dosage found in multivitamins isn’t close to the RDI.
    – Some labels are confusing.
    – Multivitamins cost money.

    There was no clinical trial confirming or disproving the actual health benefits of taking multivitamins, only possible rational (and obvious) shortfalls that do nothing to suggest not taking a multivitamin would be beneficial health-wise.

    So, LH, “Why Vitamins Are a Waste of Your Money” is a misleading title, and smacks of an attention-whoring headline.

  • Sure if people eat right and exercise they’ll be fine but we obviously don’t… I’m looking at you fatties…

    Surely the problem is more about people taking this junk with no real understanding of why or what they are taking and that the fat cat corporates are suppling inferior products and misleading people.

    God damn fat cats, someone needs to bring a laser pointer to their next board meeting… the runnign around will do them some good.

  • “If you have a healthy diet” — well, I guess I wouldn’t be wasting my money. I’m pretty sure I’m deficient in everything except carbs and sodium.

  • Who here eats 5 serves of veg and 2 serves of fruit everyday – sure If you eat all that then go nuts and stop taking vitamins otherwise it does what it says – its a supplement.

  • “…and folate if you’re pregnant and trying to conceive. ” ???

    If you’re pregnant and trying to concieve, no ammount of folate is going to help you!

  • all of the “food” in the supermarket is either GMO or sprayed with pesticides that void the food of any nutrients… in fact, turning most of the food we get at woolworths and/or coles into complete soft kill poisons.

    Organic is the way to go… with REAL vitamins and minerals.

    • Damn hippy. Anyways my dream is to just have a freezer full of pies chips and chicken and balance that out with vitamins. I take a swiss ulitive. It can’t hurt. As is my diet consists of cocoa pops and whoppers.

    • That’s great, just about every food that Coles and Woolies sell is organic, except for a few things like bottled water and salt, although the packaging for them is usually organic.

  • While the majority of vitamins aren’t needed please don’t generalise that into saying all vitamins are a waste.

    It’s the age of information and all the scientific studies you can dream of detailing the various effects of vitamins are freely available. For instance a quick search on Sciencedirect.com for fish oil or glucosamine will give you thousands of journal articles by actual scientists and whose Abstracts detail the results of the experiments.

  • It’s pretty simple really. If they are not benefiting you, don’t take them. If, on the other hand, they are benefiting you, then keep taking them.

  • Scientific benefit or not, the placebo effect is a very real (scientifically proven) so if you think something is going to make you feel better then you will feel better. The whole “alternative” medicine industry operates on this principle.

    33c per day for a Swisse multi is much cheaper way to buy the placebo effect than any other form of alternate medicine…

  • I’ve been saying this to my family for years. 7 take them, i don’t. I think that it’s like hypnotism. If you believe it works, your body will make it work. Apart from that, all I can see working is my urine turning bright yellow.

  • I give them to my son who is autistic. Without them he’d be a mess. The only other thing he eats is corn flakes (without milk) and English muffins. So thank you all those people who make multi vitamins!
    And btw, we are capable of working out which vitamins are in which product and how much and what the necessary dosages are. We are not all illiterate and stupid.

  • Great advice! Keep eating rubbish and then get your doctor/surgeon to fix your medical condition when you are sick, that way you spend multi thousands of dollars. Such a typically western way of health management. Thanks Life Hacker for promoting this sort of thinking.

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