Vitamins fail … again

Add cardiovascular disease to the long list of diseases and conditions for which vitamins have been touted, and then found to be ineffective. This week’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) contains the paper Vitamins E and C in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men by Sesso, et al. According to the abstract:

The Physicians’ HealthStudy II was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled factorial trial of vitamin E and vitamin C that began in 1997 and continued until its scheduled completion on August 31, 2007. There were 14 641 US male physicians enrolled, who were initially aged 50 years or older, including 754 men (5.1%) with prevalent cardiovascular disease at randomization…

Results  During a mean follow-up of 8 years, there were 1245 confirmed major cardiovascular events. Compared with placebo,vitamin E had no effect on the incidence of major cardiovascular events, as well as total myocardial infarction,total stroke, and cardiovascular mortality. There also was no significant effect ofvitamin C on major cardiovascular events, as well as total myocardial infarction, total stroke, and cardiovascular mortality. Neither vitamin E nor vitamin C had a significant effect on total mortality but vitamin E was associated with an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

Conclusions  In this large, long-term trial of male physicians, neither vitamin E nor vitamin C supplementation reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events. These data provide no support for the use of these supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and older men.

This new information is in line with other studies, which show that vitamins have no effect in improving disease incidence or disease related mortality, beyond treating vitamin deficiency. In the last few years, research has shown that vitamin supplements do not prevent the common cold, do not prevent cancer, and do not prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

This information should not be surprising when you consider what vitamins are and how they work. Vitamins are organic chemicals required for normal growth and development. They work primarily as “co-enzymes,” speeding up vital biochemical processes within the body. Each vitamin has a specific function or functions within the body, and deficiency of a particular vitamin produces a specific disease; for example, vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy.

Vitamins in the body are like nails in a house. Without nails in all the right places, the house will fall down. However, once the requisite number of nails is in place, adding more nails will not improve the stability of the house. More nails will either do nothing, or in large enough amounts, will actually reduce stability. Similarly, without minimal amounts of each vitamin, the body will stop working properly. Once these minimal requirements are met, however, adding more vitamins will not improve the health of the body. In fact, in large amounts, many vitamins are toxic.

Of course you wouldn’t know that from the overstated claims of the supplement industry. Consumers spend over $20 billion dollars each year on supplements, including vitamins, and almost all of it is a waste. Beyond treating vitamin deficiency, vitamins do nothing to improve health. Herbs are even worse. In addition to be completely ineffective at treating anything (compared to standardized pharmaceutical preparations), they contain widely varying amounts of the purported active ingredients, many containing no active ingredients at all.

The supplement industry is well aware of this. That’s why they lobbied for, and obtained, exemption from FDA rules requiring demonstration of both efficacy and safety before medication can be approved. As the website Quackwatch explains:

Most people think that dietary supplements and herbs are closely regulated to ensure that they are safe, effective, and truthfully advertised. Nothing could be further from the truth…

In the early 1990s, Congress began considering two bills to greatly strengthen the ability of federal agencies to combat health frauds…

Alarmed by these developments, the health-food industry and its allies urged Congress to “preserve the consumer’s freedom to choose dietary supplements.” …

The end result was passage of DSHEA, which defined “dietary supplements” as a separate regulatory category and liberalized what information could be distributed by their sellers…

To date, virtually every touted benefit of vitamin supplements to prevent and cure disease, besides preventing vitamin deficiency, has turned out to be false. Beyond a daily multi-vitamin for people at risk of vitamin deficiency, there is no benefit to taking vitamin supplements.

  • Jet Kin

    What about the risks of high levels of vitamins? There have been some studies recently showing a correlation between high levels of folic acid supplementation in pregnance and autism diagnosis in children…

  • i just need to take this hoeopathic remedy it will do magic

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