Friday, July 17, 2009

The Bias Against Vitamin Supplements

Every few months, headlines in the newspapers will proclaim that vitamin supplements are a waste of time and money. For example, headlines in the Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “Vitamin Pills: A False Hope?”. The article asked the question, “Are vitamins worth it?” The article went on to describe a study showing the failure of vitamins at providing any benefits. The article also contained quotes from doctors and researchers who commented that there is no benefit from taking vitamins.

The WSJ article was reporting on the data from the Women’s Health Initiative, which tracked eight years of multivitamin use in 161,000 women. The study found that there was no lowered risk for heart disease or certain cancers in those that took a multivitamin.

There are so many flaws in this study, I don’t know where to begin. This study was done via a questionnaire which asked women if they took a multivitamin. No vitamins were given to women; it was up to the individual to purchase and take it themselves. This is not a way to do a study. Many people say they take a multivitamin when they actually do not. Furthermore, many of the most commonly used multivitamins in the market place are of poor quality and full of synthetic vitamins. I can look at a vitamin label in a few seconds and have an idea about the quality of the product depending on the source of nutrients the manufacturer is using. In fact, most of the reported negative outcomes related to specific vitamin therapies (such as beta carotene and vitamin E and lung cancer) are due to the use of these synthetic, toxic vitamins. Vitamins need to be from a natural source and have the same bioidentical structure as naturally-occurring vitamins found in the human body. Synthetic vitamins need to be avoided. Without controlling what form of vitamins these subjects were using, I don’t feel any valid conclusions can be drawn from this study.

I wish these doctors and researchers would come to my office and observe my practice for a day. They can see the positive results I see from my patients taking the correct nutrients. In today’s world, with our food supply overloaded with devitalized, refined products, is it any wonder there are so many people suffering from nutrient imbalances? I routinely check vitamin and mineral levels and I am continually astounded by the numbers of nutrients that are imbalanced in my patients.

I am constantly trying to keep up with the research on natural items. There are literally hundreds of studies each week reporting on the efficacy of natural items. The naysayers of natural items need to look at this research. Much of it shows positive results when the right supplements are used for the appropriate condition. I see the positive results in my practice every day.

One final note. This study was poorly done. Why would it make headlines in every major newspaper? There is a bias against natural items. Big Pharma does everything in its power to discredit natural therapies in order to leave prescription items as the only available treatment for the consumer. Perhaps a multivitamin does not treat cancer or prevent heart disease. This question can only be answered by doing the appropriate study and employing a good supplement that contains natural, bioidentical supplements. Until this study occurs, I say taking a good multivitamin should do no harm and can provide a wide range of nutrients necessary for maintaining optimal health.


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