Thursday, December 3, 2020

Vitamin Supplementation Necessary – or Not?


Did you ever experience a situation when you were so angry and frustrated that you just wanted to scream? Well, if this blog post had audio, you would certainly be hearing some sounds from me right now.

In the last week, there were two articles that appeared in medical literature that got my blood boiling. Last week, in an article published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from England proposed formulating a “polypill” which would include six different drugs: a cholesterol lowering drug, three blood pressure lowering drugs, aspirin, and folic acid. The authors, based on their calculations, estimated that taking this “polypill” could potentially prevent 88% of all heart attacks and 80% of all strokes. They proposed that this super pill should be taken by everyone over the age of 55 along with anyone who had existing cardiovascular disease.

A few days later another article appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicating that a U.S. government panel did not feel that there was enough evidence to conclusively prove that vitamins could prevent conditions like cancer or heart disease.

The panel’s vice chair, Janet Allen, dean of the University of Maryland school of nursing, indicated “vitamin supplements may be necessary for individuals whose diets don’t provide the recommended amounts of specific vitamins, however, the benefits of vitamin supplements for the general population remain uncertain.”

I find it disgusting that anyone in the medical community would advocate healthy people to take multiple drugs with numerous known side effects that include nerve and muscle damage, kidney damage, etc. and further recommend that patients not take healthy and safe vitamins that are required for good health. I must take issue regarding these highly inaccurate and potentially deadly recommendations made by mainstream medical journals and doctors/nurses.

Janet Allen from the government panel suggests that the general population seems to get adequate nutrients from the diet. But is that true?

About sixty years ago the U.S. government set up minimum standards called the RDA (now called daily value – DV) with the idea of preventing vitamin deficiency illnesses such as scurvy and beriberi. The RDA for vitamin C is only 60 mg and for vitamin E 30 units. There have been several epidemiologic studies referenced in medical literature over the last two decades estimating our dietary intake of various minerals and vitamins.

Across the board, most studies showed that the vast majority of individuals in all age groups did not even consume the RDA amount of multiple vitamins and minerals. As just one example, in the journal Pediatrics from 1997, it was estimated that only 1% of children up to the age of 17 ate a healthy diet.

It was further estimated that 40% of calories came from fat and added sugar. If you’ve been watching the news, the fast food industry is on the verge of being sued for poisoning our population with saturated fatty food and other harmful products. For those of you who think that fast food is not harmful to our young and old alike, there was a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June 1998. In the study, 200 children and young adults were autopsied following accidents. Fibrous plaquing, the earliest indication of arteriosclerosis, was found in 8% of the coronary arteries in children as young as two years old. In the teenage age group, 35% of coronary arteries were affected by this fibrous plaquing.

Dr. Bear from Rutgers in the 1950s did an extensive study of our food supply in the United States and concluded that there was a wide diversity of mineral content in the soil. For example, he found as much as 109 mg of magnesium in one sample of 3 ½ ounces of tomatoes and yet in another sample he found only 8 mg. The vitamin content in our foods has likewise diminished dramatically over the years because of the way fruits and vegetables are harvested and stored. Premature harvesting of crops can cause a loss of up to half of the vitamin content. Although the government panel recently concluded that the benefits for vitamin supplementation for the general population remains uncertain, Harvard researchers in an article from JAMA in June 2002 recommended that everyone take a multi-vitamin (based on their review of the medical literature).

Just as a couple of quick examples, vitamin C, which is critical for collagen formation and immune function has been used in large quantities for decades. Dr. Linus Pauling who won two Nobel Prizes took 10 grams a day of vitamin C for decades. He lived into his 90s and remained productive to the end. In one study published in the journal of Epidemiology from 1992, 11,000 people were followed for ten years and it was found that their life span was extended by six years with decreased mortality from heart disease by 42% in those individuals taking supplemental vitamin C versus those not. In another study from Lancet from 2001, 19,000 people had measurements of the vitamin C level in their blood. Those individuals with the lowest levels of vitamin C were twice as likely to die as those with the highest vitamin C levels.

Selenium, which is a trace mineral, has been extensively studied in the last decade. In one study involving over 1300 patients done in the United States and published in JAMA 1996, those individuals treated with 200 mcg a day of the organic form of selenium had a 37% reduction in cancer incidence and a 50% reduction in mortality.

In another study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute from 1998, 33,000 physicians were followed and it was found over a ten-year period that those individuals with the highest selenium levels had approximately 2/3 reduction in the incidence of malignant forms of prostate cancer. These are but a few of literally hundreds to thousands of examples.

While it is true that there have been some recent stories about how certain vitamins do not provide benefit, I believe that the preponderance of data available in the medical literature does support the use of vitamin supplementation. The Harvard researchers who published their study in JAMA agreed as well. As a side note, the researchers out of England recommending the super pill did at least have one valuable component to their product: folic acid. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine from 1998, 90,000 nurses followed for approximately 20 years reduced the risk of colon cancer by about 75% in those individuals taking supplemental folic acid for more than 15 years.

References & Further Reading:

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