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Grace Carlson

The New Gold Brick

(12 January 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 2, 12 January 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Protect Yourself Against Winter Colds – Take Vitamin Pills.” “To Insure Good Health and Well-Being, Take a Vitamin Capsule Every Day.” These are the kind of slogans, with which the vitamin pill manufacturers bombard the citizens every day on the billboards and street car signs, in newspaper ads, and over the radio.

Impressed with the seeming scientific basis for the vitamin pill propaganda, hundreds of thousands of people have been streaming into the country’s drag stores to lay down their hard-earned cash for these synthetic vitamins. And what do they get for all of the millions that they spend for vitamin pills? Not much!

lt’s true, of course, that many vitamin pill-users may think they feel better when they take vitamin concentrates regularly. But this is no proof that they have been materially benefitted by the pills and capsules that they have swallowed. A study reported in a recent issue of Industrial Medicine gives us some interesting facts on this point.

Dr. A.C. Ivy, assisted by Drs. Jung, Bing and Cisler made a year’s study of the effect of a daily supplement of vitamins on production and absenteeism in a Chicago area steel plant. 241 steel workers were divided into three groups. One group received a vitamin capsule every day. The second group received placebos (capsules which looked like the vitamins but actually were an inactive drug). The third group received nothing. The treatment was rotated periodically and a questionnaire was circulated to all the workers every four months.

35% of those taking vitamin capsules said that their appetite, sleep and feeling of well-being had improved. But, so did 35% of those taking blank capsules! The rate of absenteeism due to illness was lower in the blank capsule group than in the vitamin group. The rates of voluntary absenteeism were the same in the vitamin and placebo group and lower than the non-treatment group. There were no significant differences in production in the three groups.

All this study proves is that people have been so thoroughly propagandized as to the great value of vitamin pills that even if they think that they are getting them, they imagine that they feel better.

Dr. G.C. Engel, a member of the Graduate School of Medicine of Pennsylvania University said in a recent talk on diet in health and disease, “It is altogether untrue that a normal person’s sense of well-being and ability to perform work can be improved greatly by the addition of vitamins to the diet. The truth of the matter is that only people who have vitamin deficiencies as established by reliable tests should indulge in vitamin therapy and then, only under the guidance of physicians who understand their needs.”

Just the same, the drug monopolies continue to peddle their expensive vitamin preparations to all who have the money to pay for them. The vitamin pill is the new gold brick!

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Last updated: 2 October 2020