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Letters to the Editor Issue 185

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 185 - August 2011

No Deaths from Vitamins - None at All in 27 Years

Commentary by Andrew W Saul and Jagan N Vaman MD

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. A new analysis of US poison control center annual report data indicates that there have, in fact, been no deaths whatsoever from vitamins . . . none at all, in the 27 years that such reports have been available.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) attributes annual deaths to vitamins as:

 2009: zero
 2000: zero  1991: two
 2008: zero  1999: zero  1990: one
 2007: zero  1998: zero  1989: zero
 2006: one  1997: zero  1988: zero
 2005: zero  1996: zero  1987: one
 2004: two  1995: zero  1986: zero
 2003: two  1994: zero  1985: zero
 2002: one  1993: one  1984: zero
 2001: zero  1992: zero  1983: zero










Even if these figures are taken as correct, 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.[1]

Still, the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service Editorial Board was curious: Did eleven people really die from vitamins? And if so, how?

Vitamins Not THE Cause of Death

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." In examining 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.

Vitamins Not A Cause of Death

In the other seven years reporting one or more of the remaining ten alleged vitamin fatalities, studying the AAPCC reports reveals 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, 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.


1. Download any Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers 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 and Giffin SL. 2009 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System (NPDS): 27th Annual Report. Clinical Toxicology  48, 979-1178. 2010. The full text article is available for free download at

The vitamin data mentioned above will be found in Table 22B.

Further Information

Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine

The peer-reviewed Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information: 

Editorial Review Board:

Ian Brighthope MD (Australia)

Ralph K. Campbell MD (USA)

Carolyn Dean MD ND (Canada)

Damien Downing MD (United Kingdom)

Michael Ellis MD (Australia)

Martin P. Gallagher, MD, DC (USA)

Michael Gonzalez, DSc  PhD (Puerto Rico)

William B. Grant, PhD (USA)

Steve Hickey, PhD (United Kingdom)

James A. Jackson, PhD (USA)

Bo H. Jonsson, MD PhD (Sweden)

Thomas Levy, MD JD (USA)

Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Phar MD (Puerto Rico)

Erik Paterson, MD (Canada)

W. Todd Penberthy, PhD (USA)

Gert E. Shuitemaker, PhD (Netherlands)

Jagan Nathan Vamanan, MD (India)

Andrew W. Saul, PhD (USA), Editor and contact person. 




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