Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Slam on supplements is NOT accurate....

Today's Post:  Tuesday, 1-7-2013

Last month as most people were planning their holidays, this was publicized:

“Multivitamins 'waste of money,' say medical experts

Wednesday 18 December 2013

"Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements," say medical experts in an editorial of a leading journal that has just published three new studies examining whether routine use of vitamin and mineral supplements brings health benefits.

Writing in Annals of Internal Medicine, the editorial authors conclude that most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, some may even be harmful in well-nourished adults, and there is a large body of evidence to support this.

Their routine use is not justified and they should be avoided, they urge, noting that:

"This message is especially true for the general population with no clear evidence of micronutrient deficiencies, who represent most supplement users in the United States….

a) The problems with this study have been commented on elsewhere in terms of how sloppy and inaccurate its methodology was. 

The main group tested was doctors who we know eat more vegetables and less fast food than many people and are less likely to be deficient or ill from other causes.

They had no clear way of telling who was taking the supplements or not and they lumped several unlike studies together.

And, they STILL found some benefits in slight cancer reduction and less heart disease. 

Worse, they used a formula known to be suboptimal as a vitamin supplement.

b) The worst flaw is right in their false headline though:

It’s as clear as a still mountain lake: 

“stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.”

Even if they found little benefit from taking a multi-vitamin using a mediocre study design, that’s NOT what the headline said they concluded.

They said that people should:  “stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.”

Did they study all of the vitamins and minerals involved and look at the studies on each one individually and found that no one benefitted even using the better form of the vitamin or larger doses for specific problems?

No -- because all THOSE studies show very strong and repeatable benefits!

Then why did they come to the conclusion that ALL spending on vitamin and mineral supplements was a waste?

Their study does NOT justify it in the slightest degree.  They did NOT study that question!

But they call them “medical experts” and note they were published in what sounds like an authoritative medical journal.

Why is this?

In many cases the vitamins and supplements that do work are more effective and safer and cheaper than the drugs that are designed for that effect.

And, trash studies like this one with unsupported conclusions are also well publicized as this one was.

Some busy doctors believe this stuff and some consumers do.

Neither those doctors nor those consumers have studied the issues in detail.  They don’t know effective preventive medicine or nutrition both for health supporting and for health harming foods and practices.  They haven’t seen the data on specific vitamins and supplements that do have large beneficial effects that can multiply the effectiveness of eating right and exercise for specific problems.

So, if someone who sounds like they know what they are talking about is in the media and slams supplements, it fools them.

And, the drug companies who clearly are paying for all this must be delighted. 

Even if their drugs are often more expensive and less desirable choices for those issues, the drug companies would prefer to have the unearned monopoly and sell the drugs anyway!

c)  To make this logical fallacy easy to see, here is a similar model:

It would be as if someone were having a heart attack and you said that routinely giving the doctors who treated it a set with tongue depressors, thermometers, stool softeners, a  stethoscope, and some baby aspirin had a low success rate. 

So NONE of those things are ever worth spending money on them?  NO!  That’s false logic.

It’s so false it should be transparent. 

But too many people trust what sounds authoritative that makes it to the news without analyzing it logically

The situation here is real enough. That set of things by itself is not super effective for stopping or reversing a heart attack or helping people survive it.  But each one of them IS worth spending money on when their use is actually effective and justified

 The tongue depressors, thermometers, stool softeners are very useful in other conditions; so to call spending on them wasteful is totally bogus and “illogical” to use the favorite word of Star Trek’s Mr Spock.

The stethoscope can help you follow the problem but by itself has no curative powers.  To be helpful you also need something to do the things that are needed besides the stethoscope.

For some heart attacks, the baby aspirin might be helpful if you used enough of them at the right time.

But would giving just one be very effective or giving it hours too late be effective even if you used ten of them?

It turns out that taking even 3 to 5 baby aspirin as soon as a heart attack looks likely DOES boost survival rates from heart attacks.

This study is very like this model.  The conclusions that are easy to see in the model are exactly those that are in this so called study.

d) One of the problems with the study is that the vitamin studied had the equivalent of half a baby aspirin for one of the most important vitamins.

Recent research has found that the real minimum daily requirement for vitamin D3 to support good health is 2,000 iu a day.  And the real optimum daily intake is about 4,000 to 5,000 iu a day or a bit more.  This is what people used to average in the sunnier half of the year when people walked to work and shop or worked outside from just sun exposure.

Study after study has found that people who take 3,000 to 5,000 iu a day of vitamin D3 have superior health on a very large number of health issues. 

Had this study, as lousy as it was, tested a multi-vitamin with even 3,000 iu of vitamin D3, the results would have been so good, they could not have used it to support slamming vitamins and supplements.

Study after study shows that people who take 4,000 to 5,000 iu a day of vitamin D3 are less likely to get cancer and those they get grow more slowly.  They are more likely to be protected when they get a flu shot.  And if they get the flu or pneumonia they are far less likely to die.  They are less likely to be injured if they exercise or play contact sports or do physical work.  They are less likely to get osteoporosis or have bone breaks if they do get it.  And they are less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease or a heart attack.  And, since besides boosting your immune system vitamin D3 apparently also boosts the regulatory part of your immune system, getting enough vitamin D3 tends to prevent autoimmune diseases.

(About two years ago the still active founder of the Stanford Center for Disease Prevention in a talk who HAS followed the research said in a talk that his listeners who were mostly middle aged and older would have much better health and live more healthy years if they took 3,000 iu a day of vitamin D3.)

What happened initially with vitamin D was that it was found that even 400 iu a day of the less health promoting and cheaper vitamin D2 is enough to prevent the bone disease rickets.

So that’s what was in the vitamin this study looked at.

Simply put, it was an antiquated supplement.

It would be like studying 1952 vintage cars and concluding that people who said full sized cars could get over 25 to 30 miles a gallon were wrong and stupid.

That WAS true.  But it is true no longer.

Bottom line is that if a headline says supplements don’t work or are a waste of money, the real research that is properly designed usually says the reverse.

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