• According To A Recent Study, You Are At A 30 in 100, or less than 1 in 100, Increased Risk Of Developing Prostate Cancer If You Take High-Dose Vitamin C Pills. Which One Is It?

    Posted October 20, 2013: by Bill Sardi

    The headline above considers both the real world risk for prostate cancer in hard numbers versus the relative risk.  The difference in mortality risk is 40-fold.   Which one is it?

    Steve Hickey, PhD, of Manchester, England, in his book entitled TARNISHED GOLD, co-authored with Hilary Roberts PhD, explains how researchers use overly large studies to find meaningless differences in health risks among human populations over a long period of time, differences that simply aren’t instructional to individuals.

    Large studies are not instructive to individuals because individuals would have to know where they stand (level of nutrient sufficiency or deficiency) to take action to reduce risk for disease.  In other words, in a given study maybe there is no significant difference in disease risk overall that is related to nutrient intake, but among individuals who are truly deficient in a certain nutrient there may be clinically significant reduced disease risks if they employ dietary supplements.

    Vitamin C has been the chief whipping boy of these types of studies in past decades, as has beta carotene and vitamin E.

    There is no suggestion of fraud or use of altered data in these studies that become the scientific basis for what is called “evidence based medicine.”  But for sure, once seemingly negative studies are published, critics of dietary supplements are quick to employ them to sway others.

    An example is a recently published study in the International Journal of Cancer.

    What researchers did was utilize a survey of foods or dietary supplements middle-aged men recalled they consumed over a 22-year period.

    News headlines claim men who took large amounts of supplements increased their risk for prostate cancer by 28 percent, particularly when supplementing their diet with vitamin C.

    Since no prior study had evaluated total intake of antioxidants from the diet and supplements in relation to prostate cancer, this was supposed to be a landmark study.

    Male health professionals, nearly 48,000 of them, age 40-75 years, participated.  Severity and mortality from prostate cancer were matched with health habits (smoking, alcohol) and levels of food and dietary supplements consumed.

    The primary finding was that while wine, tea, coffee, foods (tomato sauce, processed meat, fish, fruits, vegetables) and dietary supplements (supplemental vitamin C and E and multivitamins) were of little significance, only heavy daily coffee drinking stood out as a major risk reducer for prostate cancer.  That should have been the news headline: “coffee drinkers reduce risk for prostate cancer.”

    But news headlines read otherwise.

    News sources said: “popping too many supplements could give men (prostate) tumors.” However, it was only vitamin C pills that posed any imagined risk.

    A report in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, said “health food shops sell vitamin C tablets in doses of 1,000mg each… the body needs only about 40mg a day to keep cells healthy and promote healing.”   Of course, news reporters don’t know what, they were told that.

    Forty (40) milligrams of vitamin C is not sufficient to raise blood concentrations to optimal levels, would not be adequate for smokers that represented 10% of the study population, nor diabetics who represented 3% of the males in the study.

    Furthermore, 40 mg of vitamin C would only be marginally adequate for a perfectly healthy man, not for any male under physical or emotional stress, who takes medicines that deplete vitamin C (aspirin, steroidal anti-inflammatories, diuretics) and men with high histamine levels and/or heart and blood vessel disease.

    Dr. Hickey says the study needed 48,000 men to show a weak association between use of vitamin C pills and prostate cancer.  Among 47,896 men, 5,656 developed prostate cancer over the 22-year period.

    Those men with the lowest vitamin C intake from dietary supplements had a risk of 127/14,121 (0.9%) compared to those with the highest reported risk of 156/14,121 (1.6%), for an increased risk in hard numbers of 0.7% (less than 1 in 100) rather than the stated 28% increased relative risk (difference between 1.6% and 0.9%).

    Dr. Hickey also points out that “the results reported in the study were inconsistent. Two subsets of cancer were significantly related to supplement use while four others were not. So for example there was no overall increase in risk between prostate cancer cases and supplement use. Such inconsistency suggests the reported study results are simply a random anomaly of multiple statistical tests.”

    So go have a cup of coffee, and don’t worry about these meaningless studies.

    The same goes for positive studies involving dietary supplements.  For example, a recent study claims use of multivitamins reduces the risk for death from breast cancer by around 30%.  But in hard numbers multivitamins decrease risk for mortality by around 3%.  – ©2013 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.

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