One in two adults takes a vitamin pill. Over half of the patients that we see are on some "alternative medication" - minerals, vitamins, etc. According to a recent article in the New York Times, alternative medications have sales in this country of over $30 billion dollars a year. It is largely an unregulated industry, and a New York Times op ed noted that these medications have been found to be contaminated with arsenic, other toxic metals, and even androgenic steroids.
Does the potential benefit outweigh the potential harm? Not according to controlled studies. They do not prevent cancer, heart disease, or prolong life.
For those who are interested in a reasonable discussion on alternative medications, we highly recommend the new book "Do You Believe in Magic" by Dr. Paul Offit. Dr. Offit is a Pediatric Infectious Disease physician at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia.