FORWARD to the NEW EDITION of “THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA’S ANTI-VITAMIN AGENDA”
Since the first edition of this book was written in 2011, not much has changed on how the mainstream media covers the topic of vitamins and other nutritional supplements. The mainstream media still can’t wrap its ‘brain’ around the concept that vitamins have numerous positive health benefits. We can assume, of course, that such vitamins are taken in the proper amounts, in balance with other nutrients or supplements, and of course, in conjunction with a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle!
Let’s consider just a sampling of negative vitamin articles that have appeared since 2011 and give a brief synopsis as to why they’re off base or just plain wrong.
THE U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT on VITAMINS, FEBRUARY, 2012
One negative vitamin article was in a 2012 online issue of the U.S. News and World Report and authored by Anna Miller, (02/24) and entitled: Popular but Dangerous: 3 Vitamins That Can Hurt You. If you take a vitamin pill, these warnings probably apply to you. She quotes a gastroenterologist Gerard Mullin, director of integrative gastrointestinal nutrition services at the J. Hopkins Hospital, author of The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health, who has cared for patients who allegedly developed liver fibrosis because they overdosed on vitamin A. “A lot of people don’t know it can be dangerous,” he says. “They think it fights infections.”
“They think it fights infections.” Are you kidding me? Vitamin A DOES help fight infections! Many of our readers probably learned that vitamin A is “the respiratory-tract vitamin,” perhaps back in ninth grade health science class, and that it is involved with immune system enhancement. So IF a patient (or patients), took too much vitamin A and developed liver troubles, this means, therefore, that vitamin A does NOT fight infections? What kind of logic is this? Too much can be dangerous, so the definition of vitamin A therefore changes to having “no benefits to one’s immune system”? This is just plain silly.
Now Ms. Miller quoted Dr. Mullen as saying “he has cared for patients who developed liver fibrosis because they overloaded on vitamin A.”1 It is well known that it is possible to overdo all fat soluble vitamins, including vitamin A. But in this present instance (or instances), were vitamin D levels also checked?
Now to be sure, a subsequent issue of the same paper, U.S. News and World Report issued a balanced critique of such writing 21.2 months later by author and columnist Michael F. Roizen.2
“The headlines that appeared would make me go to my doc with questions were I you (and my or your doc may have not read the fine print) … or maybe I’d just say to myself, “I don’t need these and stop ‘em.” And whenever new studies in this area appear, especially headline-making studies, I review ‘em in detail to see if my recommendations should change. I need to be responsive to the data, but that requires the work of reading the studies and the fine print in the studies.” “These news headlines (like “Are Multivitamins a Waste of Money?,” “Vitamins Should Be Avoided” and “Your Multivitamins aren’t Doing a D**n Thing” ) and even the editorial in one of medicines leading journals – the Annals of Internal Medi-cine – do mislead unless you are a fine-print reader. And the news headlines did not mention the fine print.” “So I wanted you to know what the fine print said so you were not misled. And so you didn’t throw those babies – your multivitamins, your vitamin D3 and four other supplements I’ll elaborate on in future blog posts – out with the bathwater.”
PAUL OFFIT ON VITAMINS
Another article was a piece published in the Opinion page of the NY Times in 2012 and was authored by Dr. Paul Offit, the well known vaccine advocate. Entitled, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” this article has done a huge disservice to the millions of Americans concerned about their health and our ever-increasing “health-care” bills.
The criticisms of the ATBC and CARET studies are all addressed in Chapter 4 of this book.
Next Dr. Ott discusses a 2004 review of 14 randomized trials from the Cochrane Database. In this review, he claims that they found supplemental vitamins A, C, E and beta carotene, and a mineral, selenium, taken to prevent intestinal cancers, to have increased mortality.
The Cochrane Library arrived at such a conclusion by considering 452 studies on these aforemen-tioned vitamins, and then they threw out the 405 studies where nobody died! That left just 47 studies where subjects died from various causes, (one study was conducted on terminal heart patients, for example). From this hand-chosen group of studies, these researchers concluded that antioxidants increased mortality.3
KMOV Mobile News and Ryan Jaslow on Vitamins
Back in December of 2013, a report by Ryan Jaslow appeared on the KMOV Mobile News, apparently, a news feed from the CBS News website regarding an article with the following title: Multivitamin researchers say “case is closed” after studies find no health benefits.4 Fairly non-ambiguous, right? This article begins with the strong sentence: “‘Enough’ with the multivitamins already.”
Mr. Jaslow quotes “three new studies,” so what were these studies? First let me say these will be discussed in greater detail in our new chapter 11, in part IV. Meanwhile, let’s give a brief critique.
The first paper referenced by Jaslow was based upon research performed at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.5 In this report, they stated that vitamin supplements are probably useless when it comes to preventing heart disease and/or cancer.
The second paper referenced by Jaslow was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, December 16, 2013, and this looked at cognitive health and whether long-term use of multivitamins would have any effect. Researchers assigned almost 5,950 male doctors aged 65 and older to take either a daily multivitamin or placebo for 12 years in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Based on the results of memory tests, the researchers found the MV did nothing to slow cognitive decline among men 65 and older compared to placebo takers. “These data do not provide support for use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cognitive decline,” wrote the authors, led by Dr. Francine Grodstein, an epidemiologist from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. In brief, there are many nutrients necessary for cognitive health—even hydration is important in the elderly, however, we should not expect a cheap MV to make much difference in cognitive abilities at all!
The third item referenced by Jaslow was based upon an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, from the week of December 16th. In this journal, referenced in many news reports the following day, there was an editorial entitled, “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.” 6
So what of the December 16th study imploring us to not ‘waste our money’ on supplements? Turns out that they “screened” more than 12,760 study abstracts and then chose a total of 26 studies for their analysis. By my calculator, 26 of 12,760 studies is 0.2 percent of the total. I contend that anyone wanting to bash vitamins can choose 1/5th of a percent of thousands of studies and prove whatever they want. Wouldn’t you agree? The flaws in the referenced studies in this editorial are unbelievable and are explained throughout this book.
Of course, who could forget that negative article from Time Magazine, “Want to Stay Healthy? Don’t Rely on Vitamins” by Alexandra Sifferlin from the November 11th, 2013 edition of Time Magazine. Let’s quote the very first sentence: “Americans spend nearly $12 billion each year on vitamin supplements, hoping they will steer us away from diseases like cancer and heart attacks. But it turns out they’re just a drain on our wallets.”
This is just nonsense and I think it is a drain on your wallet in many instances, if you consume conventional medicine. Isn’t spending nearly $8,000 per year on conventional medicine and getting the often lousy outcomes we get…a “drain on our wallets”? People are spending a few hundred per year on dietary supplements because they are dissatisfied with conventional medicine, both because it IS so expensive and also because in many instances, the results are below the level of patient expectations.
The selection process was bad enough, but another problem with this selection process is that ALL the studies chosen had nutrient intakes at levels around or below the F.D.A.’s recommended intakes of nutrients! For vitamin D, for example, it was around 100 I.U. per day, a ridiculously low standard! (The RDA for Vitamin D is 400 I.U./day. Many advanced-level practitioners recommend 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 or more I.U. per day of vitamin D, to raise 25OH-D serum levels to the appropriate and helpful ranges.) 100 I.U. will have zero health benefits and will not make the slightest dent in changing blood levels to within ranges that reflects optimum health or disease resistance.
Selected for inclusion were studies looking at the following supplements’ effects on heart disease or cancer: Multivitamins, Vitamins A, C, D and E, Beta Carotene, Folic Acid and Calcium.
Now if taking the exact “correct” dose of a drug (say an antibiotic for an infection, for example), is so very important, why is it “fine” to take totally useless doses of all these important nutrients and call it a massive study?” Even worse, how can you then publish these studies and call it science or research?
As this book will illustrate throughout, these studies do NOT refute the health benefits of supplements, but do prove that hatchet jobs continue to be done on vitamins and other nutritional supplements as they’ve been done since vitamins were discovered, decades ago.
It should be noted that Dr. Albert Saul, wrote a detailed rebuttal of this group of studies from the Annals of Internal Medicine and noted the following positive studies that were apparently ignored by Ryan Jaslow and the authors he was quoting. (There will be more on this topic in our new chapter 11, ahead.)
- JAMA2012: Multivitamin supplements were found to reduce cancer risk by eight percent.
- International Journal of Cancer2011: A mere 10 ng/ml increase in serum vitamin D levels was associated with a 15 percent reduction in colorectal cancer incidence and 11 percent reduction in breast cancer incidence.
- American Heart Journal2011: Each 20 micromole/liter (µmol/L) increase in plasma vitamin C was associated with a nine percent reduction in heart failure mortality. According to Dr. Saul, if everyone were to take 500 mg of vitamin C per day—the dose required to reach a healthy level of 80 µmol/L—an estimated 216,000 lives could be spared each year.
- International Journal of Cancer2011: While the NBC declared that “Vitamin E does no good at all in preventing cancer or heart disease,” this study found that gamma-tocotrienol, a cofactor found in natural vitamin E preparations, decreases prostate tumor formation by a respectable 75 percent.
- Internt’l Journal of Cancer2008: 300 IUs of vitamin E daily, reduced lung cancer risk by 61 percent.
So before you throw all your dietary supplements in the garbage, you might rest assured that you are likely not wasting your money. Far from it, you are probably enhancing your health, if you are also following a few sensible lifestyle suggestions like exercising daily and eating right.
I hope you find value in this book and thanks for buying this second edition—regular or on-line!
- Cheruvattath R, et al., Vitamin A toxicity: when one a day doesn’t keep the doctor away. Liver Transpl. 2006 Dec;12(12):1888-91.
- Roizen, Michael F.; Misleading News on Multivitamins: How Media Missed the Value of Supplements,S. News and World Report, online edition, December 30, 2013.
- Adams, Mike,The Health Ranger: Vitamins A, C and E Increase Mortality! (and other nonsense from the realm of junk science); Natural News, 04/16/08
- Jaslow, Ryan, Multivitamin researchers say “case is closed” after studies find no health benefits; CBS News, online edition, posted December 17, 2013
- Annals of Internal Medicine, November 12, 2013