Vitamins replace prescriptions among the jobless

Here's something pretty terrifying: As people lose their jobs and their health insurance, they're foregoing doctors and prescription drugs in favor of over-the-counter vitamins.

"If I had a job with health insurance, I probably would have gone to see a doctor by now," Kerry Parham told the New York Times. "But instead, I'm here buying echinacea. I hope it works."

It's not that there's anything wrong with echinacea, as far as it goes: You'd just hope that people were opting for alternative medicine out of principle or experience instead of necessity. Vitamin stores are seeing double-digit increases in traffic while the clothing stores next to them at the mall are struggling to stay in business.

This surge in demand comes at the same as a slew of studies that raise questions about the effectiveness of vitamins. A pair of studies have raised red flags about Vitamin C. The New York Times'Well Blog recently rounded up a big pile of studies suggesting that not only do vitamins not make things better but, in some cases, they make things worse.

Still, there may be a silve lining to this: Even if vitamins don't do any good, the recession may have people who would normally rush off to the doctor at the first sign of illness looking in the mirror for solutions. With 60% of the population overweight -- that number doesn't seem to have been effected by the downturn -- there is plenty of progress to be made on that front.

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