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Faye Flam

When Science Gets Demoted: The Case of Vitamins

There's not much evidence they do any good. 

No longer part of your balanced breakfast.

No longer part of your balanced breakfast.

Photograph: Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images

Proponents of science-based medicine are fond of saying that there’s a name for alternative treatments that pass scientific tests:  medicine. But what they don’t mention are those parts of long-established medicine that get demoted to “alternative” status — or should be.

For years, doctors pestered me — and apparently many other people — to take a daily multivitamin and a calcium supplement. There was nothing wrong with me; doctors said it was a kind of insurance. The calcium was to protect against fractures, and the multivitamin … well, the doctors were never too clear on that, but they were adamant.