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Supplements and Safety - Tonight on Four Corners

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Supplements and Safety: The hidden dangers of vitamins and health supplements

"We love the notion of a magic pill. It’s something that makes it all better." - Dr Paul Offit, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

It’s the multi-billion dollar industry selling health supplements and vitamins - over the counter pills and capsules bought in enormous numbers by consumers.

“I really want to say, ‘Show me the data. Show me the evidence.’” - Dr Joann Manson, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

But do they do you any good?

“You can sell something without any evidence that it’s safe or effective.” - Dr Pieter Cohen, Harvard Medical School

Should you take vitamin D pills? What about vitamin E, multi-vitamins and fish oil?

“There is no compelling evidence that taking fish oils protects against the first heart attack, or a second heart attack. And so people who are advised to do that, or are doing it, are wasting their time and their money.” - Dr Andrew Grey, University of Auckland

In this joint investigation from the New York Times and the PBS Frontline program, the report asks leading clinicians and researchers for their assessment of these products and whether the claimed health benefits can be proven.

“The crazy thing about the dietary supplement world is there are none of those studies, and the studies that are done say the stuff doesn’t work!” - Dan Hurley, Author, Natural Causes

And some of these supplements and vitamins may actually be doing you harm.

“You actually can increase your risk of cancer, increase your risk of heart disease. I think few people know the risks they’re taking.” - Dr Paul Offitt, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

The program raises troubling questions about the quality and safety of vitamins and dietary supplements.

Supplements and Safety, from the PBS Frontline program and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 16th of May at 8.30pm on ABC & iview. It is replayed on Tuesday 17th May at 10.00am and Wednesday 18th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm AEST, ABC iview.