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Millions of Americans take multivitamins every year. But why? The multivitamin industry is worth billions of dollars, but is it all for the benefit of the consumer? Are multivitamins really beneficial?

Millions of Americans take multivitamins each and every day. But why? It has long been believed that multivitamins are incredibly beneficial for health and well being and with such a huge variety of vitamins on the market, there is something out there for everyone - male or female, young or old, healthy or unwell. 

But can multivitamins really improve our health? Or are they just a marketing ploy?

Americans Take Multivitamins to Improve and Maintain Health

A study by Regan Bailey, nutritional epidemiologist based atthe U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, found that Americans tended to take supplements to improve or maintain their health.

Most people took supplements not on the advice of their doctor, but simply because they thought that supplements might improve or maintain their current health.

Based on data from the 2007-2010 National Health Survey, taken from 12,000 U.S. adults, Bailey found that 45% of adults taking multivitamins did so because they believed they would improve their health, with a further 33% taking them to maintain health. Only 23% of adults were taking vitamins on the advice of their doctor. We now know why Americans are taking multivitamins - but where did it all begin?

Dr. Linus Pauling

Dr. Linus Pauling is relatively unknown, but he is widely considered to be one of history's most prolific doctors. When Albert Einstein was asked to comment on his work, his reply was a shrug of the shoulders and the comment, "His work is too complicated for me." He won two Nobel prizes, one of them when he was just 30 years old, and went on to publish numerous scientific papers that underpin much of science as we know it today. He was the first scientist to combine chemistry with quantum physics and one colleague of his later commented that in one stroke, one of his papers on evolution "united the fields of paleontology, evolutionary biology and molecular biology". He also worked in molecular biology and his work was later used as a starting point for research into the structure of DNA.

In 1970, however, his reputation quickly changed. He published a paper on the use of vitamin C, recommending that people took 3,000mg of the supplement each day - a whopping 50 times the daily recommended allowance. He himself was taking 18,000mg - 300 times the daily recommended allowance. Science didn't agree with his claims but his previous reputation as a fantastic scientist meant that 50 million Americans were taking his advice by the mid-1970s.

Pauling soon took things further. In 1977, he claimed that if everyone were to take vitamin C, cancer rates could drop by 75% - even further with the use of other dietary supplements. With the use of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and beta-carotene, Pauling believed that he could eradicate virtually every disease known to man.

His research was quickly debunked by study after study and his reputation soon plummeted. But his work was the start of America's love affair with multivitamins.

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