Should You Eat Your Vitamins?

  • Sumo
Health, cure, vitamins, by pixabay user Miziankika, licensed by Creative Commons.

Everything in moderation…

We’ve been told since childhood to take our daily vitamins, but sometimes they do more harm than good. In March 2017, a consumer fraud class action lawsuit was filed against popular vitamin manufacturer Vitafusion for that reason. Vitafusion lists 400 mg of folacin on the label of its flavored multivitamins. However, test results show an actual amount of 1,232 mg, which exceeds the “upper tolerable intake limit” of 1,000 mg set by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A “vitamin” is defined as an organic chemical compound that is required in small amounts for the body to function correctly. Within each compound is a collection of vitamins, including Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. Their benefits include cell growth, healthy immune systems, and proper vision. A deficiency in any vitamin can cause serious health problems, but excessive amounts can be just as harmful. Folate, for instance, is a B Vitamin that is essential for cell growth and metabolism. Folate deficiencies can lead to anemia, fatigue, and mouth sores. But too much folate can cause narrowed blood vessels, breathing difficulties, hair loss, sleep problems, and even an increased risk of cancer and seizures. It can also interfere with many prescription medications.

The number of people affected by high folate levels in Vitafusion’s multivitamins has yet to be determined, but the allegations raise several important issues. The first, and perhaps most concerning, is consumer health and safety. A secondary issue is that of accountability. The complaint filed in this lawsuit states that by improperly listing its product’s ingredients, Vitafusion has misled customers. David Chavez, a consumer who filed the complaint, calls the company’s mislabeling a “deliberate attempt to deceive customers.”

If the class action suit against VItafusion succeeds, it will join a series of settlements in the dietary supplement industry. In 2016, Endo Health Solutions, Inc. paid $15.5M to settle a class action lawsuit contending that its Qualitest multivitamins contained almost 50% less fluoride than advertised. In 2015, Nature Made, a natural foods and dietary supplement manufacturer, was sued for false advertisement when it erroneously claimed health benefits of Vitamin E in its products.

Whatever becomes of the Vitafusion lawsuit, it is apparent that consumers expect to have the products they consume held (rightfully so) to a high standard.