No deaths from vitamins in 27 years

A new analysis of US poison control centre annual report data conducted by Drs Andrew W Saul and Jagan N Vaman of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service indicates that there have been no deaths whatsoever from vitamins in the 27 years that such reports have been available.

Over a twenty-seven year period, vitamin supplements have been alleged to have caused the deaths of a total of eleven people in the United States. The American Association of Poison Control Centres (AAPCC) attributes annual deaths to vitamins as follows:

2009: zero; 2008: zero; 
2007: zero; 
2006: one; 
2005: zero; 
2004: two; 
2003: two; 
2002: one; 
2001: zero

2000: zero; 
1999: zero; 
1998: zero; 
1997: zero; 
1996: zero; 
1995: zero; 
1994: zero; 
1993: one; 
1992: zero

1991: two; 
1990: one;
1989: zero; 
1988: zero; 
1987: one; 
1986: zero; 
1985: zero; 
1984: zero; 
1983: zero

The Orthomolecular Medicine News Service Editorial Board, however, was curious and wanted to firmly establish if eleven people indeed had died from vitamins and if so, how it happened. The research done by Saul and Vaman now indicates that the statistics do not reflect the true state of affairs.

In determining cause of death, AAPCC uses a four-point scale called Relative Contribution to Fatality (RCF). A rating of 1 means "Undoubtedly Responsible"; 2 means "Probably Responsible"; 3 means "Contributory"; and 4 means "Probably Not Responsible."

When Saul and Vaman examined the poison control data for the year 2006, listing one vitamin death, it was seen that the vitamin's Relative Contribution to Fatality (RCF) was a 4. Since a score of "4" means "Probably Not Responsible", it quite negates the claim that a person died from a vitamin in 2006.

'Not evidence-based'

Saul and Vaman also found that, in the other seven years where the AAPCC reported one or more of the remaining ten alleged vitamin fatalities, there was an absence of any RCF rating for vitamins in any of those years. If there is no Relative Contribution to Fatality at all, then the substance did not contribute to death at all.

Furthermore, in each of those remaining seven years, there is no substantiation provided to demonstrate that any vitamin was a cause of death.

“If there is insufficient information about the cause of death to make a clear-cut declaration of cause,” say Saul and Vaman, “then subsequent assertions that vitamins cause deaths are not evidence-based. Although vitamin supplements have often been blamed for causing fatalities, there is no evidence to back up this allegation.”

More importantly, even if the AAPCC figures are taken as correct (which the latest research has proven to be unlikely), and even if they include intentional and accidental misuse, the number of alleged vitamin fatalities is strikingly low, averaging less than one death per year for over two and a half decades. In 19 of those 27 years, AAPCC reports that there was not one single death due to vitamins.

Concludes Dr Alan Tomlinson, chairperson of the South African Health products Association (HPA), "The HPA is delighted to create national awareness around this issue. The uncritical acceptance of news of toxicity by nutrients, the often scornful tone used in reporting around micronutrient supplementation; and the ignoring of evidence for possible benefit of micronutrient supplementation are vindicated by this research report.

"It also supports the move towards Integrative Medicine with growing acceptance of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) amongst allopathic medicine practitioners and a trend amongst consumers to take greater personal responsibility for their health through responsible supplementation.”

 - Health Products Association of South Africa (HPA) press release

(Health24, August 2011)


1. Download any Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centres from 1983-2009 free of charge at The "Vitamin" category is usually near the very end of the report.

Most recent year: Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2009 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System (NPDS): 27th Annual Report. Clinical Toxicology (2010). 48, 979-1178. The full text article is available for free download at  The vitamin data mentioned above will be found in Table 22B.

Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular MedicineOrthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information:  The peer-reviewed Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

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