“Killer” vitamins!

These days it is becoming almost common for people to come to their appointment with me carrying the latest article they cut out from a newspaper or magazine describing the dangers of this antioxidant or that vitamin. One might think that vitamins are becoming a major cause of illness and death in today’s world, when they are actually essential to life and that the modern diet is depleted of them!

Most of these articles do not present original research but statistical reevaluations of prior research, much of which was flawed to begin with. The fact that they even get published in respected medical journals is indicative of a bias against nutritional products, and it always amazes me how quickly the media picks up on this “news.”

By contrast, here are two studies you are not likely to hear about on the morning talk shows:
One happens to be the first study to show that a vitamin can improve memory. Researchers followed close to a thousand people aged 50 to 75 over a three-year period. Some were given 800 mcg of folic acid daily as a supplement, whereas others received a placebo. Those who took the supplement ended up scoring significantly higher on a variety of cognitive tests. As far as memory is concerned, their scores on average were equal to those of people 5.5 years younger who had not taken the vitamin (Neurobiol Aging. 2006 Feb; 27 (2): 334-43).

The second study analyzed results of 63 prior studies in relation to vitamin D status and cancer rates, reaching the conclusion that adequate status of this vitamin was associated with significantly lower rates of several types of cancer, including colon, breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. In their conclusions, researchers stated that “vitamin D supplementation could reduce cancer incidence and mortality at low cost, with few or no adverse effects” (Am J Public Health. 2006 Feb; 96 (2): 252-61).

Meanwhile the media continues to focus on “killer” vitamins.

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