Every so often, a news report comes out quoting a study that claims to show the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a certain vitamin or supplement. There may be times when all, or most, of the previous studies showed positive results for the nutrient being studied, and the current study contradicts all of those findings, and gets the media coverage. So what are five things you should be asking about the study?
1.Who, or what company, did the study and who funded the study? Many times, studies on vitamins and other alternative nutrients that were reported to have negative results was funded or conducted by one or several drug companies. One can draw their own conclusions from these studies. Better yet, a few weeks after the report comes out, do an internet search – many times it will found that the study contained flaws, which may include any of the following.
2.It may have used a certain group of people who are not representative of the general population. They may have been people with an already advanced disease where the nutrient would not work the same as it would with a healthy person, or someone with a minor problem.
3.Perhaps they used extremely low or high amounts of the nutrient in the study, or they gave it to the subjects too little or too often. For example, vitamin C, to be most effective, should be taken 2-3 times per day – in the morning, afternoon, and evening, as most forms only stay in the system for 4-6 hours.
4.Did they use natural or synthetic ingredients? In several studies which showed negative results for vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Beta Carotene, synthetic forms were used. The media made no mention of this. However, if the study was checked, it would have been seen that the synthetic forms had been used. In most, if not all, cases synthetic forms are no good, and may cause problems (usually the synthetic forms have a “dl” in front of the main ingredient, and the natural form has a “d.” So d-alpha vitamin E is natural, dl-alpha is synthetic. These same designations are used for amino acids).
If you hear a negative report about some vitamin or supplement, saying that it is unsafe, or doesn’t do anything to improve your health, and is a waste of money, but all the past evidence shows just the opposite, there is a good chance that it falls into one of the above four categories. Should you then disregard all negative studies regarding supplements? No – but you should research the current study, as well as previous findings, to find the truth.
Keep in mind the following when considering the safety of vitamins and supplements, especially compared to drugs. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that an estimated 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from drugs that, by medical standards, are properly prescribed and properly administered. More than 2 million more suffer serious side effects. According to the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service: “The 2003 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposures Surveillance System (1) states that there have been only two deaths allegedly caused by vitamins. Almost half of all Americans take nutritional supplements every day, some 145,000,000 individual doses daily, for a total of over 53 billion doses annually. And from that, two alleged deaths? That is a product safety record without equal.”