Researchers discover new ways to misinform the public about vitamins
A group of researchers announced in February that multivitamins do not reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. They reached this conclusion after performing statistical manipulations on data collected during the 1990s in a large clinical
study called The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).
Now, some of these folks were the same people who brought us the scare in 2002 over the use of estrogens to prevent the symptoms
of menopause. At that time they sounded an alarm, based on data from the same WHI study, claiming that estrogens caused a
dramatic increase in breast cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. Countless millions of women, all over the world, immediately stopped using estrogens, and began suffering severe menopausal
symptoms as a result. Several years later a different group of researchers analyzed the same data and discovered that the
scare had been unwarranted — the original conclusions were not supported by the data.
So what are we to make of this latest announcement — that multivitamins don’t reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease risks?
Well, do people actually use multivitamins for this purpose? If they do, they’re making a mistake — multivitamins are low-dose
vitamin and mineral products that are intended to prevent basic deficiency diseases. They are not intended to prevent non-deficiency
diseases like cancer and heart disease. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if these latest claims are true — multivitamins
probably are not effective against these diseases.
If we want to prevent cancer and heart disease then we should be using much higher dosages of very specific supplements —
for example, vitamin D3 for cancer, and EGCG for cardiovascular disease. There is abundant evidence that these and other supplements
are effective preventatives.
The new announcement about multivitamins, while possibly correct in its conclusions, is like a straw man that this research
group has set up so that they can knock it down in the media. This serves no useful purpose — in fact it leads to harmful
consequences. Journalists have picked up this story and drawn incorrect and overblown conclusions from it which they then
promulgate through the media to the general public. For example, a recent newspaper article quoted one of the researchers
“There may be other preventive practices that are better than taking a vitamin supplement, and their money is probably better
spent on buying fruit and vegetables or increasing physical activity.”
The journalist takes this questionable advice and expands it, telling the reader:
“Isolating nutrients from a diet that is void of good nutrition is futile. The secret is in the diet. Vegetables, fruits,
beans, and whole grains supply a wonderful blanket of nutrients for living disease-free.”
This is a ridiculous statement. Hospitals are full of patients who have relied on such ‘disease-free’ diets but have developed
cancer or heart disease anyway. And world history is full of plagues and deficiency epidemics resulting from ‘natural’ diets
that happen to lack adequate amounts of certain substances — substances that today are available as supplements.
Multivitamin use: No heart disease or cancer benefit
San Francisco Examiner online, 2009.02.16
Multivitamin use and risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease in the Women's Health Initiative cohorts.
Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 9; 169(3):294-304
Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results From the Women's Health Initiative
randomized controlled trial.
JAMA. 2002 Jul 17; 288(3):321-33
Feb. 13, 2006
ABC News online
Updated Analysis of WHI Estrogen-Only Data Offers Positive News
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website, 2006.04.11
LifeLink carries a superior multivitamin product called “Platform”.