Articles

Vitamin Junk Science Sets Off Global Media Frenzy

December 5th, 2011 by Andrew Hendrie from Health Freedom NZ

A supposed scientific paper reported in a prestigious medical publication suggests that taking supplements can increase death rates, despite the fact that the researchers used self-reported data of only three samples over 20 years, and they had no data on what supplements were being taken, what the women consumed, or why they died.

The article, published in the AMA Archives of Internal Medicine, has set off a global media frenzy. From the LA Times to China’s Xinhau, reports abound that taking a multivitamin can increase death rates. Within two days of publication, almost 300 articles appeared across global mainstream media outlets with headlines including ‘Vitamins Do More Harm Than Good’, ‘Vitamins May Have Death Risks’, and ‘Don’t Take Your Vitamins’, to name just a few.

The statistical data was taken from a survey of 38,772 women (average 62 years old) over a period of two decades. Each women was require to self-report what food and supplements they had taken over the previous years, and there were three samples total, one in 1986, then 1997 and also in 2004. The 1997 survey did not include any data on food intake, a matter some significance in regards to nutrient levels.

Despite the hype, some areas of significance that the headlines failed to address include:

  1. Of the women surveyed, approximately 15% smoked, 35% used to smoke, 45% drank alcohol and 40% had high blood pressure [1].
  2. The report did not determine the amounts of vitamin and nutrient supplements taken, or if they were artificial or natural.
  3. The study reported that taking supplements of B-complex, vitamins C, D, E, and calcium and magnesium were actually associated with a lower risk of death, and most of the mortality came from the use of iron and copper supplements [1] (most supplements containing Iron also contain a warning that excess use can cause death, a well documented fact [2,3]).
  4. The study showed the strongest associations for Calcium, which actually reduced the risk of death [4].
  5. Key factors not accounted for include the individuals drug intake, nutrient intake from sources other than vitamins, the types of supplements taken and the possibility that sub-clinical signs of chronic disease could already have been present in some subjects at the start of the study.

The negative findings were only evident following data adjustment (or data massage) [4], and the final comments by the authors stated “We did not have data regarding nutritional status or detailed information of supplements used.”

Health Freedom Executive Director Andrew Hendrie comments “An observational study done with surveys is notoriously inaccurate. The fact that the study showed lower mortality rates for many vitamins is further evidence of the cherry picking of what was a neutral study that was very poorly performed. This type of ‘science’ does not stand up to even moderate scrutiny, and conflicts with a much larger body of independent science that proves the opposite. The public relies on journalists conducting their due diligence before going to press on matters such as this. If that had happened this article would not have had the global coverage it received.”

“This is further evidence of the medical industrial complex serving its own agenda and protecting its profits, while using the media to confuse the public about the risks and benefits of nutrient supplementation. In summary the researchers had no idea how many vitamins or minerals were being taken, in what combinations, what these older women actually consumed, or why they died. To condemn the use of multivitamins with such junk science is absurd.”

For reliable free access to information on Vitamins and Orthomolecular Medicine (which is the science of nutrient therapy), see the following links:

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