Monthly Archives: December 2013

Multivitamin Misinformation
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Lately there have been some stories in the media regarding the lack of efficacy of vitamin supplements for most conditions with a few exceptions.  Unfortunately bad studies like these can be picked up by the media and without the right backup information, many individuals may change a healthy supplementation regimen they have been following.  Vitamin supplements have repeatedly shown benefits in various outcomes ranging from cancer to cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, bone health, adrenal health, and many other anti-aging topics.
These studies claim that most people are wasting their money on these supplements.  Unfortunately, what wasn’t reported was the unacceptable dropout rate that one of the studies had (almost 50% – an unacceptable level in most studies).  As well adherence to the vitamin regimen in the study was defined as acceptable if the patient took the supplement just 2/3 of the time – that’s just 2 out of every three days it was ok to take the vitamin and still arrive at a conclusion!  The dose of the vitamins in these studies is often to low to make any suggestions about their effectiveness.  In fact the doses given were 5-10% of the normal recommended dose for disease prevention.  These studies often show a benefit but due to unreasonable cut off standards for what constitutes a benefit, the results are determined as insignificant.
Other studies which are epidemiological look at two unrelated variables and attempt to make a conclusion.  These types of studies are important to direct further scientific study in an area but cannot make firm conclusions as to public recommendations.  One recent such mistake was made when omega-3 supplementation was thought to be useless as a supplement for prostate cancer prevention before the study was discounted.  Another vitamin that has received a bad reputation as of late is Vitamin E.  If you purchase vitamin E from almost anywhere it probably has only one form of this vitamin (dl-alpha-tocopherol – the least active form).  As a colleague once said to me,  there are 8 forms of vitamin E…four tocopherols and four tocotrienols and they fit together like a basket to protect from all the bad stuff. If they take one it doesn’t form the same protective basket so a lot of bad stuff can happen. All the studies that showed benefit used the 8 forms and all the studies that showed disadvantages were using one or two forms at the most. Vitamin D has been established in numerous studies for it’s fracture prevention, cancer reduction and cardiovascular outcomes when taken in the correct dose to give a sufficient blood level of 25-OHD.  Further studies (Physician’s Health Study II, the Supplementation in Vitamins and Mineral Antioxidants Study and others) have shown a decrease in fatal heart attack risk and total cancer incidence with proper vitamin supplementation.(Life Extension Featured Article)

Keep in mind that well designed, double blind, crossover, placebo controlled studies have repeatedly shown benefits with these supplements as well as other nutraceuticals and that the dose as well as the quality of the multivitamin are essential in determining outcomes.  Food sources are best for these intakes but levels are often too low for therapeutic levels.

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