Skip to comments.Vitamin Studies Spell Confusion for Patients
Posted on 10/14/2011 7:20:30 PM PDT by decimon
If it's Monday, it must be bad news about multivitamin day -- or was that Wednesday? No, Wednesday was good news about vitamin D, not so good news about vitamin E -- if you're confused, join the club.
The alphabet soup of vitamin studies making headlines in the last few weeks has left more than one head spinning, and most clinicians scrambling for answers.
As the dust begins to settle, physicians interviewed by MedPage Today and ABC News agreed on a bit of simple wisdom -- a healthy diet is more important than a fistful of supplements.
"I had already asked my patients to stop their vitamin supplements four to five years ago, with the exception of those with a deficiency of vitamin D, ... pregnant patients [who should get] folate and prenatal multivitamins, or those with cognitive impairment, when I would recommend a vitamin B complex," Albert Levy, MD, a primary care physician in New York, said in an email to MedPage Today and ABC News.
Whether patients heed the advice is another question, as recent research has shown that more take supplements now than ever before. More than half of Americans report taking a multivitamin or other dietary supplement, up from 40% just two decades ago.
(Excerpt) Read more at abcnews.go.com ...
Bottom line: The FDA wants to control all vitamins and supplements, so that nobody can have them without government permission. Therefore, a bureaucratic push to make the public think these things are too dangerous for the public to have.
Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.
I thought that’s what cults do ,control the diet and you control the mind
“The FDA wants to control everything”
It’s a money thing.
I have taken a large number of vitamins for the last 15 years.
I am never sick. Is it my own immunity or the vitamins..I don’t know.
And I probably never will.
But any time the FDA gets involved...we need to worry.
I have been drinking inhuman quantities of Diet Coke for 20 years now. All the health nuts have been telling me my head will fall off or something.
Lift weights, eat protein, watch the carbs, and wash it down with Diet Coke to look good and feel good.
Follow the money.....
“Vitamins - Bad....Viagra - Good”
“Generic - Bad....Name Brand - Good”
(a lesson in following the money.....)
From a scientific standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense to think that we somehow need to take large quantities of purified or synthesized vitamins, when the human race has existed for the last million years or so without them. If you eat a balanced diet, you shouldn’t need vitamins.
Vitamin companies have done a very good job of convincing people that they absolutely need to pop handfuls of vitamin pills.
You asserted, "If you eat a balanced diet, you shouldnt need vitamins." I don't know your educational background, but it is a well documented medical fact that genetics come into play on how well and for how long during the lifetime vitamins and minerals are absorbed. I happen to not absorb certain vitamins as well at 66 a I did at 30. I'm thankful supplementation can make up the deficit and extra anti-oxidants can slow my going blind.
My educational background is a PhD in biochemistry/molecular biology.
The problem with trying to present a general truth, is that there is always a pathological process that makes exceptions to the truth.
Human beings did not evolve popping megavitamins; it makes utterly no sense to assume that a healthy individual should need to pop megavitamins to remain healthy, when that is not how we evolved.
Unfortunately, too many people assume that because something is true within a pathological context, it must be generally true—and that is not the case at all. Diabetics must severely limit their intake of sugar; that does not mean that everyone needs such drastic limits. With the disclaimer that I have not read any studies regarding the role of antioxidant vitamins in slowing the progress of macular degeneration, and so cannot judge their reliability, I’ll just say that because taking megadoses of these vitamins has a beneficial effect in your case, does not mean that it would be equally beneficial to people without your condition.
While we have a much more healthy variety and abundance of 'healthy foods' in our current epoch, we also have an abundance of carcinogenic and mutagenetic chemicals in our environment which are man-made and not a part of the earlier epochs. Supplementation can be benenficial in dealing with these dangerous chemicals.
“a million years” ago humans probably didn’t live past 25...
But as we evolved over millions of years, life expectancy was not what we hope for today. People suffered from all sorts of diseases mediated by vitaHin deficiencies, from the obvious rickets (which often caused death in childbed in an age before Caesarean sections), visual problems, osteoporosis, cancers potentially linked to Vitamin D deficiencies, and so forth. People lived short lives full of suffering. We’d like to do a bit better now. We have a not-unrealistic expectation that we’ll be able to live long, healthy lives and remain active into our eighties.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to do that with today’s “balanced diet.” By the time that tomato arrives at your house after its trip from Holland, or the green pepper gets here from California, or the grape is eaten after being shipped from Chile, it’s questionable whether much nutrition remains in it. A valid case can be made that people who don’t raise their own food ought to take supplements just to restore the nutrition that is supposed to be in a balanced diet.
It’s also been clearly demonstrated that the office worker who lives north of Charleston, South Carolina is not getting enough Vitamin D because he isn’t exposed to enough sunlight in the winter, especially if he’s black. This phenomenon has been linked to the increasing incidence of asthma in black children. One may reasonably assert that it’s appropriate for those who live in northern latitudes to take Vitamin D supplements.
And are you really going to be able to consume enough dairy foods to take in 1500 mg per day of calcium needed to sustain strong bones into old age? You can eat a “balanced diet,” whatever that may consist of, and still have osteopenia or osteoporosis after menopause. So calcium and Vitamin D supplements may be appropriate.
There’s just too much sound science demonstrating that some supplements really do improve health and the quality of life.
I usually avoid using qualifiers. Not because I’m trying to hide anything, but because once I go down that path, I can end up writing a VERY long post and still not succeed in explaining every single qualifier. And after all that, my original point has not changed.
And you are correct, a “balanced diet” is an extremely broad entity. In considering any particular nutrient, it seems that there is a minimum quantity we must have, and a maximum quantity beyond which the effects become deleterious; anything between those two limits is fine. We’re very adaptable; that very adaptability means that the variability in what might be called a “balanced diet” is huge.
For the most part, I don’t worry much about carcinogens or mutagens in the environment. With all of the clean air and water regulations we have, those aren’t really an issue. Now, if we lived near a Mexican maquiladora (or however that’s spelled), where no attempts at all are made to control effluents, I’d be worried. In any case, much of our food, especially of plant origin, contains plenty of native toxins (many of which are potential carcinogens). We’ve evolved a very complex system to deal with them.
PS....I eat healthy and have most of my life, I exercise and have most of my life....never smoked....but, menopause almost killed me. My maternal grandfather died in his sleep of either a massive cardio problem or something similar (he was thin).....I will take vitamins because I think they help, and because people are DIFFERENT! As people age their abilities to process nutrients can change for the worse...IMHO...oh, and I have a doc who is a MD and ND....who does research and teaches....I’ll listen to him.
PS..PS...meant to say my grandfather was 50 when he died.
“Bottom line: The FDA wants to control all vitamins and supplements, so that nobody can have them without government permission. Therefore, a bureaucratic push to make the public think these things are too dangerous for the public to have.”
Exactly Correct: No debates or studies or any crap like that needed. This is yet another big central government takeover.
When are we going to say enough?
Your assumption is false. Ever since the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey results were published nearly forty years ago, it has been established that a majority of U.S. childred do not ingest the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamins C and D every day, and that 90% do not ingest enough iron. And many nutrition scientists regard the RDA levels as way too low, since they are based on those levels required to prevent the symptoms of deficiency disease, NOT the levels required for optimum health.
I’d agree with you but I know the value of extra Vit C and D.
Reading about intravenous Vit C and it's ability to control pain is extremely interesting.
The major contribution to our current life-expectancy is control of infectious disease. That results from sanitation measures and vaccinations, and has nothing to do with adequate nutrition. And the observation that a lack of a particular nutrient leads to pathological conditions does not mean that excesses of that same nutrient will lead to super-health. Quite the opposite, in many cases. Either you have enough of a given nutrient, or you don't. In addition to control of infectious disease, genetics plays a huge role in life span.
Unfortunately, its hard to do that with todays balanced diet. By the time that tomato arrives at your house after its trip from Holland, or the green pepper gets here from California, or the grape is eaten after being shipped from Chile, its questionable whether much nutrition remains in it. A valid case can be made that people who dont raise their own food ought to take supplements just to restore the nutrition that is supposed to be in a balanced diet.
I highly question that all the nutrients are somehow disappearing during shipment. According to this article, the half life of some of those compounds is 6-8 days, and the loss is mediated through tissue death. Which suggests to me that the nutrient loss occurs in proportion to the degradation of the veggies. I don't know about you, but I avoid buying or eating any produce that doesn't look nearly perfect. BTW, I would ignore the pink editorial note at the end of the article I linked. The article was written on the basis of scientific research; the editorial note was not.
Its also been clearly demonstrated that the office worker who lives north of Charleston, South Carolina is not getting enough Vitamin D because he isnt exposed to enough sunlight in the winter, especially if hes black. This phenomenon has been linked to the increasing incidence of asthma in black children. One may reasonably assert that its appropriate for those who live in northern latitudes to take Vitamin D supplements.
I'm highly skeptical of many of those vitamin D claims; for instance, the blanket assertion that we cannot get enough vitamin D through normal sun exposure. It sounds like a ploy to sell more vitamins to me (as do a lot of these claims--vitamins are a HUGE business). In the one special case you mentioned, that of black people living in the north, the point is probably valid that they don't get enough sunlight. That's because the high levels of pigment in black people's skin is an adaptation to living in an area with strong sunlight, very unlike what one finds in the US. That pigment does such a great job of blocking UV light that little of it penetrates down into the living cells where it is needed for vitamin D synthesis. Those of us who have European or Asian ancestry, especially if our ancestors came from the northern parts of those continents, are far better adapted to the amount of sunlight that we are exposed to here. We have far less of that pigment, so more UV light can penetrate.
BTW, I've noticed that American blacks, in general, are lighter than African blacks. Maybe because they're adapting to the lower levels of sunlight in the US as compared to Africa?
And are you really going to be able to consume enough dairy foods to take in 1500 mg per day of calcium needed to sustain strong bones into old age? You can eat a balanced diet, whatever that may consist of, and still have osteopenia or osteoporosis after menopause. So calcium and Vitamin D supplements may be appropriate.
Once again, you're bringing pathological conditions into the discussion of normal nutrition. Bone diseases associated with menopause are related to genetics. A woman whose genetics predispose her to osteoporosis may not be able to consume enough extra calcium or vitamin D to counteract the bone loss, because she DOES have a genetic disease. Luckily, there are drugs developed to treat those diseases now.
Theres just too much sound science demonstrating that some supplements really do improve health and the quality of life.
No, there is no science that says that consuming excesses of trace nutrients is superior to consuming adequate amounts of them. While fostering the belief that more=better is excellent for the supplement industry, it is not based in rigorous science. In 2009, Americans spent $26.9 billion on dietary supplements, including vitamins, according to Carlotta Mast, editorial director at Nutrition Business Journal. Vitamins are Big Business.
Genetic problems are separate from the issue of taking excesses of trace nutrients. The best that you can do is try to get proper nutrition and exercise--and NOT load up on supplements, which can do more harm than good. Heart disease and other circulatory problems run in my family, on both sides. So far, my longest-lived relative died when he was 81 or 82... the next longest-lived was 72. My sister has high blood pressure. I exercise and try to eat right, and I don't have any cardio problems. I never had high blood pressure, except when I had preeclampsia when I was pregnant. My resting heart rate is below 60. Maybe I was lucky and avoided getting the nasty genes that kill off other members of my family--I don't know.
The bottom line is still, either you get enough of the trace nutrients, or you don't. It's just like oxygen--either you get enough, or you don't; consuming more than enough won't make you healthier.
Taking excessive vitamin supplements has nothing to do with longevity. I already said this above, but I’ll say it again: the biggest factor in our current lifespan is control of infectious disease, through sanitation measures and vaccination.
The fact that your doctor got colon cancer and you didn’t is highly unlikely to be related to the fact that you consume huge quantities of a trace nutrient. I suspect that a formal study would not reveal that people who take excess doses of trace nutrients have a lower cancer rate than people who are adequately nourished but do not consume excess trace nutrients. My mother in law died of breast cancer several years ago; she was a big believer in the miracles of supplements. She had many bottles of various supplements that she took on a regular basis, and she sold them, as well. But she still died of cancer.
Estrogen seems to have a protective effect against heart disease, which is why men and post-menopausal women have higher rates of heart disease than pre-menopausal women. It has nothing to do with the monthly loss of iron. (If you cook using iron skillets, btw, you should be able to consume sufficient iron without ever popping a pill.)
So far, there have not been many studies on long-term effects of taking excessive amounts of trace nutrients. It *is* known that excessive vitamin C causes kidney damage, but that’s just one effect. Scientists are becoming more interested in these questions, which is good—but, given the amount of money in the vitamin industry, getting funding to do those studies may be problematic.
You had better address that to ExDemMom, who does not agree with you. I’m on your side. Except I’m too busy to go on debating her today.
A link to a few abstracts by Dr. Ames about the importance of getting adequate nutrition:
Firstly, I welcome your input. This, like every topic, benefits from informed discussion.
As far as I can tell, that vitamin C causes kidney stones was an assumption not verified. Mega-doses of anything seems a bad idea to me unless targeted at some specific condition.
Near all I’ve read about vitamin D leads me to believe that few of us will get adequate amounts without supplementation.
I’m one of those people described as taking a muti-vitamin, mineral, etc. pill as ‘insurance’ against inadequacy in diet. The pill I take has no mega-doses of anything.
Ames has been everyone’s hero at one time or other. ;-)
“In the 1970s, Bruce Ames was a hero to environmentalists—the inventor of the Ames Test, which allows scientists to test chemicals to see whether they cause mutations in bacteria and perhaps cancer in humans. His research and testimony led to bans on such synthetic chemicals as Tris, the flame-retardant used in children’s pajamas. A world renowned cancer researcher with a calm, reasoned manner, Ames was an ideal witness in the case against man-made chemicals. As science writer John Tierney aptly described him in Hippocrates, “He has a quiet, kindly tone of authority as he patiently explains why things are the way they are....He sounds so sensible. which is one reason he made such a good witness for the environmentalists in the 1970s.”
But it’s a scientist’s imperative to change his mind when the data change— and recent data have made Ames deeply suspicious of high dosage chemical testing and especially of the notion that man-made chemicals are uniquely dangerous. We are, he has discovered, surrounded by mutagens—not only synthetic chemicals but also natural ones—and blindly banning suspicious modern substances can do more harm than good.”
I think a definition of “excessive” is in order....
It would be easy to create a similar study showing that people who take prescription drugs die earlier than those who don’t.
There are also been grants made to study the effect of intravenous Vit C on cancer.
It's been a long time since I spent a lot of time researching it but it's fascinating reading once you get started.
The damage caused by excessive doses of vitamin C and other water-soluble vitamins isn’t so much kidney stones, but deposits of oxalate (or other) crystals in the kidney tubules and other organs. Furthermore, the process of straining the excess vitamin C out of the blood puts needless wear-and-tear on the kidneys.
Given the huge profits of the vitamin industry, I would take anything claiming that you can’t get adequate amounts of whatever nutrient from your diet or normal activities with a huge grain of salt. It makes no sense at all to believe that we evolved to need higher doses of trace nutrients from our diet than we can get through our natural activities. Our diets are far more varied than those of our ancestors, meaning that the likelihood of missing essential nutrients (as long as we make an effort to “eat healthy”) is far lower than what our ancestors faced.
"Excessive" means more than your body needs to carry out metabolic functions. When you take in more than you need, your body either discards the excess through urination (putting strain on the kidneys proportionate to the amount of excess), or stores it in fat deposits,which can lead to other toxic effects.
To a certain extent, your body is equipped with a sophisticated system for eliminating excess trace nutrients... but stressing those systems with large excesses can have very deleterious effects.
It is impossible to put numerical values on what constitutes "adequate" or "excessive" trace nutrient intake. Like calorie intake, these are very individual.
Are you a Chemist?
Are you a Scientist?
Do you have a Degree of any type? And if so..what might that be?
I'm not asking to be an ass....I just thought it might be helpful.
Are you saying...when you say "our", you mean American's?
I will agree with your statement here..."studies are bunk"..unless the person in question has read them.
I've got to the point if someone tells me they drink 10 glasses of carrot juice a day..and they have done it for years...and they just became as smart as algore now..and they are never sick. I'm all for it.
Say it again if you like, but saying it a third time won't make it true.
Nor does denying it multiple times make it false. You might try reading some medical history and finding out for yourself exactly what the significant life-extending advances in medical science were.
As recently as three years ago, I read that infectious disease is responsible for more than half af all deaths. It is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a major public health concern.
Estrogen seems to have a protective effect against heart disease... It has nothing to do with monthly loss of iron.
The reverse of your claims is well established.
Um...really? I suggest you Google "menopause and heart disease." You will be able to find at least one article that mentions the protective effect of estrogen on heart health. It's an association that's been known for decades.
Scientists are becoming more interested in these questions, which is goodbut, given the amount of money in the vitamin industry, getting funding to do those studies may be problematic.
Your view that the "Vitamin industry" is so powerful that it makes medical research funding "problematic", while ignoring the multibillion dollar drug business is quaint, but charming.
I do not recall mentioning "power" here, nor would I have any reason to do so. This concept of "power" as you use it is alien to me.
What I'm talking about is economics. Drug companies devote a huge amount of time, effort, and money into drug development. They are quite willing to allow researchers to investigate their drugs. In my experience, having had a drug company representative urge me to contact him regarding a collaboration he wanted to develop because of where I did research, they welcome and financially support research. Because, to the drug companies, increasing the amount of research into their drugs increases the possibilities of finding new applications (thus, new markets) for their drugs, as well as speeding the lengthy approval process.
On the other hand, vitamin manufacturers aren't very eager to fund research, especially since they are quite aware that most of the research today does not support a bona ride need for routine trace nutrient supplementation. From an economic standpoint, funding such research is the last thing they want to do.
When you read articles claiming all these wonderful miraculous benefits from consuming excess trace nutrients, pay attention to who is funding the article. That should tell you a lot.
Well, yes, I mean Americans and citizens of other first-world countries, where people can afford decent sanitation and basic health measures. I think most people have no idea just how miserable and disease-ridden much of the third world is.
Well...gee....isn't that what I have been saying? People are different....some may need MORE vitamins/supplements than others....It is NOT like "oxygen."
Harping? All I'm doing is trying to point out what is actually fairly common knowledge, and very easy to verify: that control of infectious disease is the biggest factor in history in increasing our lifespans (that is, those of us who live in first-world countries) to what they are today.
You are the one who keeps insisting despite all evidence that popping unnatural quantities of trace nutrients is what leads us to live longer than our ancestors. Not only is that untrue, it begs a glaringly obvious question: if popping pills causes people to live longer, then why don't we see people who don't consume excessive quantities of trace nutrients dropping off like flies at age thirty or so?
You might try reading some medical history and finding out for yourself exactly what the significant life-extending advances in medical science were.
Uh Oh. Your superciliousness is rearing it's ugly head (again). I could suggest a few books for you, but you seem so in thrall to the drug lobby (hereinafter, "Thralldom Theory") and so lacking in specifics that I won't bother. I will suggest that you take some advice from this guy. (first quote)
No, I'm hardly being "supercilious" here. I'm actually sharing how you can verify/learn for yourself the things which I have said here. I *always* try to verify everything I post before I post it, using information derived from peer-reviewed research. And if I can't verify, I say so. I also either provide links, or explain how to find the info (which I have done here).
Also, I'm not sure if you realize just how illogical your assumption is. I'm here, telling people to be careful about taking quantities of certain chemicals that are in excess of what is naturally available from food; the notion that I'm somehow a hack for the drug industry--another promoter of consuming not only unnatural quantities of chemicals, but, often, chemicals that are not even naturally present in food--is ludicrous.
I do not recall mentioning "power" here, nor would I have any reason to do so. This concept of "power" as you use it is alien to me.
Gee willikers, Ms. Science. And I thought you were relatively fluent in English. Sorry, I'll try again, with an update.
You use the word "power" in much the same way that leftist nut cakes (or the OWS tantrum throwers) use it. In that context, the concept is utterly foreign to me. I simply do not think that way.
As recently as three years ago, I read that infectious disease is responsible for more than half af [sic] all deaths.
You're kidding. The most frequent 7 causes of death in the US in 2007 comprised just over 70% of the total.
Hmm... Looking back over what I wrote, I see that I indeed made a typo (blame the iPad and its odd spell checker for that), but I do not see where I said anything about the 50% death rate due to infectious disease being in the US. Even though we are fortunate enough to have the resources to more or less control infectious disease, it is still one of the largest public health concerns, even in the US.
Of course, by this point, I do not expect you to display much interest in actually looking up anything for yourself from reputable (i.e. peer-reviewed, vetted studies). Your loyalty to the multi-billion dollar vitamin industry has more of the flavor of an adherence to a religious belief than of a desire for healthy living.
I’ve learned a long time ago that people pick up all sorts of health-related nonsense and latch onto it like a religious belief.
All I do is attempt to spread the facts, the most reliable we have, which are those learned through actual controlled research, published in peer-review journals. If you choose to reject that in favor of... I dunno where much of that stuff floating out there comes from, but whatever... there is not much I or anyone else can do about that.
When I told how you can verify what I said through Google (and by being selective about the “hits” you look at, such as choosing to look at Mayo Clinic instead of some vitamin manufacturer), that goes for EVERYTHING I have said. In fact, even when I’m sure of the facts I’m saying, I still Google them to double check. If you doubt ANYTHING I have said in any post—Google is a quick way to check it.
While you’re trying to look for discrepancies in what I said, let me point out that I was being very clear when I said “our” lifespans (as in, the lifespans of anyone who is likely to read this, which would be a citizen of a first-world country, most likely the US), and when I said that I read that the leading cause of death (up to 3 years ago) is still infectious disease, where I used no adjective to specify any particular group.
Finally, let me point out that I did not initiate any posts to you. All of my posts have been responses to yours.
You must work for a vitamin company...otherwise, you wouldn’t be so threatened by the idea that people should try to eat healthy diets instead of popping handfuls of pills in an attempt to compensate for poor nutrition and lack of fitness. After all, Big Vitamin is a multi-billion dollar industry...
What could anyone make of this gibberish?
Oh, I'm holding back, here, keeping in mind who my audience is. You should see when I'm in full scientific mode--then, I become incredibly verbose and incomprehensible (except to other scientists). It is a real challenge to write comprehensibly for non-scientists.
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