Trying to knock the value of vitamin and mineral supplements.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote carefully to you all, explain the distortions of studies which ignored the “sick user” effect. It seems like more people are dying of a therapy, whereas in fact they are taking the therapy because they already have a problem.
This latest study (Oct 10th 2011) ignored it royally and came to a disastrous conclusion. You might think they INTENDED to make vitamin and mineral substances look bad!
At the very least, it’s a childish conclusion.
In women aged 55 to 69 years, several widely used dietary vitamin and mineral supplements, especially supplemental iron, may be associated with increased risk for death, according to data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, published in October 10 2011 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Not all “vitamins” were bad, but several, it is claimed, were: notably multivitamins, vitamins B6, and folic acid, as well as minerals iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper.
Self-reported use of dietary supplements increased substantially between 1986 and 2004. In addition, supplement users had a higher educational level, were more physically active, and were more likely to use estrogen replacement therapy.
A total of 15,594 deaths were reported up to December 31, 2008, representing about 40% of the initial participants. The use of multivitamins overall was associated with 2.4% increased absolute risk for death, it said.
Vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and zinc were associated with about a 3% to 6% increased risk for death, whereas copper was associated with an 18.0% increased risk for total mortality when compared with corresponding nonuse.
In contrast, use of calcium was inversely related to risk for death (hazard ratio, 0.91; 95% confidence interval, 0.88 – 0.94; absolute risk reduction, 3.8%).
“Although we cannot rule out benefits of supplements, such as improved quality of life, our study raises a concern regarding their long-term safety,” the authors add.
In a related editorial, it was claimed that the current study adds “to the growing evidence demonstrating that certain antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E, vitamin A, and beta-carotene, can be harmful.”
In fact there is no such evidence: just the constantly raked over fiasco of the 2007 JAMA study. It purported to find that antioxidants were not only ineffective but were actually dangerous and caused increased deaths. The press were on it straight away, of course, hooting that supplements were likely to kill you.
What was fatally flawed about this study was that the researchers, for some unknown reason in defiance of logic, excluded all studies where no deaths took place. What? It’s a way of saying “we’ll exclude every study that showed supplements and antioxidants were quite safe”.
Do you smell a rat? I do.
In any case, this silly current study is way out of step with tens of thousands of papers pointing to the many health and longevity benefits of supplementation. These too are never referred to. It’s as if they conveniently didn’t exist.
ONE WORD OF CAUTION: Iron is definitely dangerous to some people. Those with iron overload syndrome, a common but rarely diagnosed condition, face rapid death due to fulminating bacterial infections. Their immune system is powered down by iron (genes for iron overload affect about 40% of the population).
This study was partially supported by the National Cancer Institute and the Academy of Finland, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, and the Fulbright program’s Research Grant for a Junior Scholar. One study author is an unpaid member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the California Walnut Commission. The other authors and editorialists have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
Arch Intern Med. 2011;171:1625-1634.