• Efforts To Slam Dietary Supplements Reach New Lows In Pseudoscience

    Posted July 15, 2013: by Bill Sardi

    In recent weeks you’ve read headlines that antioxidant supplements kill, and kill, and that fish oil inexplicably increases the risk for aggressive prostate cancer (but not prostate cancer itself), and now we read where multivitamins taken by a group of adults in the Linxian region of China over 20 years ago had no effect upon death rates.

    Say again?  Yes, exactly, National Institutes of Health Researchers reported in 1995 that six-years use of a watered-down multivitamin in a poorly nourished population produced no significant benefit in regard to mortality.  Then twenty years later, researchers say they revisited the ongoing health statistics in this population and found the prior six-year use of a multivitamin had no effect on total mortality.

    Before you think vitamin supplements could not possibly have any latent effect two decades after they were taken, one study conducted in Linxian published in 2009 concluded that the “beneficial effects of selenium, vitamin E and beta carotene on mortality rates were still evident up to 10 years after cessation of supplementation.”  So vitamin supplementation can produce lasting effects.

    However, the precise circumstances involved in the Linxian esophageal cancer trial and later re-analysis suggests it would be next to impossible to produce a significant reduction in mortality from this type of cancer.

    In the Linxian area the incidence of esophageal cancer is 20-30 times that reported in the U.S.  Also worldwide, the highest incidence of esophageal cancer is observed in Linxian, China, with an annual rate of more than 130 per 100,000 people, with peak incidence between 60-70 years of age. This is precisely the region of China selected for use of the multivitamin trial.

    Cancer is a disease of advanced age.  Even with consideration of these risk factors, esophageal cancer in the highest risk areas of China arenot generally diagnosed, even in the earliest stage, till the fifth decade of life.

    Twenty years ago, when first supplemented, these human subjects in Linxian ranged in age from 40-69 years.  Any esophageal cancer would not likely have occurred during the six years of supplementation ending 20 years ago.  So the vitamins were not being used when most of the tumors were forming.  Esophageal cancers would likely have been detected thereafter.  It simply would have been unlikely for any benefit to be anticipated or reported 20 years ago.

    Just how a multivitamin would overcome chronic health practices in Linxian that induce esophageal cancer goes unexplained.  These risk factors include smoking tobacco, drinking very hot and salted tea, boiled with milk; a diet rich in meat, especially salted, dry and/or smoked meat, and dairy products; and a diet poor in fresh fruit and vegetables. The combination of hot drinks (such as milk, tea and soups) and strong alcoholic spirits, together with poor oral hygiene and tooth loss, would likely to add mechanical injury to the esophagus.  It might have been too much to ask of a multivitamin.

    Furthermore, vitamin supplements were reported to be beneficial for other reasons in this same population.

    Multivitamins significantly reduced the prevalence of blinding cataracts among aged adults in Linxian.

    Another study in Linxian published in 1996 showed that six-year use of a multivitamin significantly reduced overall mortality, particularly for stroke-related deaths, and the effect was greater for males.  Elevated blood pressure was also less prevalent in this vitamin-supplemented group.

    Multivitamins are beneficial, particularly for poorly nourished population groups like those in Linxian.  The interrupted use of a multivitamin was not a fair test.  ©2013 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.


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