Centrum vitamins. One of the most well-known names in the world of nutritional supplements. And also one of the most criticized brands of vitamins you can find.
One of those criticisms is about to be laid to rest, and it’s not because Pfizer finally proved the many health benefits Centrum claims. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has won its long battle to make the pharmaceutical company remove Centrum’s claims about helping prevent breast and colon cancer.
The move is definitely a victory for those who support regulation of the supplement industry, which the FDA has not done much to police. Though of course, Centrum’s makers refuse to admit that they’ve been deceiving the public. In a statement after the agreement was finalized Pfizer said, “The company disagrees with CSPI’s concerns, but has agreed to make these changes in order to fully resolve the issues raised by the organization.”
CSPI had also raised concerns about products claiming to support eye and bone health without any proof to back up their claims, but said that they dropped that part of their complaint to secure a victory on the breast and colon debate. ”A settlement is, by its nature, something where neither side gets all it wants,” said Stephen Gardner, director of litigation for the center. “Once Pfizer agreed to drop the breast and colon cancer claims, we felt that that was too important to let things fall apart over eye and bone health.”
I have to say, my parents were never huge, “Take your vitamin” types. We ate balanced meals and that seemed to work fine for us. But once I moved away to a boarding school, they sent me with Centrum vitamins, because they were positive that I would be eating junk food. They were right about that, by the way. But within the first week of school, another girl on my floor whose mother was very interested in vitamins and minerals, screeched when she say my vitamin stash. “Those won’t do anything for you,” she yelled at me. “Your body can’t even digest those pieces of chalk.”
Within a week, her mother had sent me liquid vitamins that I had to store in my mini-fridge. They tasted horrible, but I was assured that they would actually give me the nutrition my body needed. I held my nose and swallowed. And really, from that point on, I’ve always just accepted that Centrum was the junk vitamin made for mass appeal that didn’t do much for my health. No matter what claims they threw on their boxes.
My distrust of Centrum came early, and I’m glad that it did. I would hate to be fooled into thinking that a little pill can prevent cancer, instead of concentrating on proven lifestyle choices I can make to stay healthy. I would hate to believe that I was protecting myself with a vitamin that does no more to protect me from cancer than eating cereal for breakfast does.
Now, the question is when we’ll start looking into all of the other claims made by the supplement industry. It would be nice to know if my liquid vitamins were doing any better for me. At least they aren’t making false claims about serious conditions though.