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Geritol is a US trademarked name for various dietary supplements, past and present. Geritol is currently a brand name for several vitamin complexes plus iron or multimineral products in both liquid form and tablets, containing from 9.5 to 18 mg of iron per daily dose. The name conveys a connection with aging, as in "geriatric
Geriatrics is a sub-specialty of internal medicine and family medicine that focuses on health care of elderly people. It aims to promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults. There is no set age at which patients may be under the care of a geriatrician, or...

." The product has been promoted from almost the beginning of the mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 era as a cure for "iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

-poor tired blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

". In the early 20th century, some medical doctors and other health professionals felt that much of the tiredness often associated with old age was due to iron deficiency anemia
Anemia is a decrease in number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. However, it can include decreased oxygen-binding ability of each hemoglobin molecule due to deformity or lack in numerical development as in some other types of hemoglobin...



Geritol was introduced as an alcohol-based, iron
Human iron metabolism
Human iron metabolism is the set of chemical reactions maintaining human homeostasis of iron. Iron is an essential element for most life on Earth, including human beings. The control of this necessary but potentially toxic substance is an important part of many aspects of human health and disease...

 and B vitamin
B vitamins
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. The B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin, referred to as vitamin B . Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods...

 tonic by Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in August 1950 and primarily marketed as such into the 1970s. Geritol was folded into Pharmaceuticals' 1957 acquisition of J. B. Williams Co., founded in 1885. J. B. Williams Co. was later bought out by Nabisco
Nabisco is an American brand of cookies and snacks. Headquartered in East Hanover, New Jersey, the company is a subsidiary of Illinois-based Kraft Foods. Nabisco's plant in Chicago, a production facility at 7300 S...

 in 1971. Since 1982, the Geritol product name has been owned by the multinational pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline
GlaxoSmithKline plc is a global pharmaceutical, biologics, vaccines and consumer healthcare company headquartered in London, United Kingdom...


The earlier Geritol liquid formulation was advertised as "twice the iron in a pound of calf's liver," and daily doses contained ca 50–100 mg of iron as ferric ammonium citrate. The Geritol tonic also contained ca 12% alcohol and some B vitamins.

Federal Trade Commission investigation

Geritol was the subject of years of investigation starting in 1959 by the Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act...

 (FTC). In 1965, the FTC ordered the makers of Geritol to disclose that Geritol would relieve symptoms of tiredness only in persons who suffer from iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia is a common anemia that occurs when iron loss occurs, and/or the dietary intake or absorption of iron is insufficient...

, and that the vast majority of people who experience such symptoms do not have such a deficiency. Geritol's claims were discredited in court findings as "conduct amounted to gross negligence
Gross negligence
Gross negligence is a legal concept which means serious carelessness. Negligence is the opposite of diligence, or being careful. The standard of ordinary negligence is what conduct one expects from the proverbial "reasonable person"...

 and bordered on recklessness," ruled as a false and misleading claim, and heavily penalized with fines totaling $812,000, the largest FTC fine up to that date (1973). Although subsequent trials and appeals from 1965 to 1973 concluded some of the FTC demands exceeded its authority, Geritol was already well known and continued to be the largest American company selling iron and B vitamin supplement through 1979.

Since then, supplemental iron products, including Geritol, have been contraindicated because of concerns over hemochromatosis, and serious questions raised in studies for men, postmenopausal women, and nonanemic patients with liver disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, or cancer. Further, the US Recommended Dietary Allowance for iron is well above the intake calculation for even the population average of menstruating women, in US society where the daily heme iron intake (e.g., red meat) often grossly exceeds the individual iron requirement.

Media sponsorship

In the early days of television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 the marketing of Geritol was involved in the quiz show scandal, as the sponsor of Twenty-One
Twenty One (game show)
Twenty One is an American game show which aired in the late 1950s. While it included the most popular contestant of the quiz show era, it became notorious for being a rigged quiz show which nearly caused the demise of the entire genre in the wake of United States Senate investigations...

. After that, for many years Geritol was largely marketed on television programs that appealed primarily to older viewers, such as The Lawrence Welk Show
The Lawrence Welk Show
The Lawrence Welk Show is an American televised musical variety show hosted by big band leader Lawrence Welk. The series aired locally in Los Angeles for four years , then nationally for another 27 years via the ABC network and first-run syndication .In the years since first-run syndication...

, What's My Line?
What's My Line?
What's My Line? is a panel game show which originally ran in the United States on the CBS Television Network from 1950 to 1967, with several international versions and subsequent U.S. revivals. The game tasked celebrity panelists with questioning contestants in order to determine their occupations....

, Hee Haw
Hee Haw
Hee Haw is an American television variety show featuring country music and humor with fictional rural Kornfield Kounty as a backdrop. It aired on CBS-TV from 1969–1971 before a 20-year run in local syndication. The show was inspired by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, the major difference being...

, and Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour
Original Amateur Hour
The Original Amateur Hour is an American radio and television program. The show was a continuation of Major Bowes Amateur Hour which had been a radio staple from 1934 to 1945. Major Edward Bowes, the originator of the program and its master of ceremonies, left the show in 1945 and died the...

Geritol is famous for a 1973 television commercial tag line, "My wife, I think I'll keep her."http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,906840,00.html This line, brought out during the height of the Women's Liberation Movement, was not appreciated by liberated women and was lambasted by the media and comedy shows alike.

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