Navigating Healthcare – Patient Safety and Personal Healthcare Management

Vitamins Do Not Prevent Cancer or Heart Disease

Posted in Healthcare Information, Nutrition, Preventative Healthcare, Uncategorized by drnic on January 8, 2009

You just can’t eat your way to a longer life – so says a report in USA Today based on studies released yesterday in the:
Journal of the American Medical Association
Effects of Selenium and Vitamin C on Prostate Cancerr, and
Vitamin E & C in Prostate Cancer)

and from previous studies in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Beta Carotene, C and E in Cancer and
– the editorial on Vitamin Supplements and Randomized Controlled Trials

and from the American Hearts Association meeting in November that featured

Vitamins C and E not preventing heart disease and E causing an increased stroke risk
and B-12 and folic acid not preventing heart disease

So what does it all mean – well the basic premise of eating healthy and in moderation remains the same but the idea that you can encapsulate this ideal into a pill or two just won’t work. Better to work on good balanced diet, reduction in meat and fat consumption and regular exercise.
Taking pills to supplement does not seem to hold a lot of promise based on the recent results released. Overall the best strategy is probably summarised by Peter Gann:

…health-conscious consumers should focus on getting their vitamins from plant foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, which contain precise mixtures of hundreds or even thousands of compounds. Many of these compounds may work better in the combinations selected by nature.

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3 Responses

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  1. Kyani said, on January 8, 2009 at 16:38 (4:38 pm)

    I agree with you. People need to eat healthy to stay healthy. Fatty food are everywhere, but we alone are responsible for giving our body the nutrients that it need to function properly.

  2. resistanceisfruitful said, on January 9, 2009 at 21:17 (9:17 pm)

    It’s important to keep published research reports in perspective. Common sense tells me it is likely that most of us suffer from nutritional deficiencies. It’s one thing to say “eat a good balanced diet”, and quite another to actually do so, considering the state of the food supply most of us are dependent on. Now if the the issue is the quality of nutritional supplements, I’m all ears.
    I recommend this interesting article from the Public Library of Science (PLOS), entitled Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.

  3. drnic said, on January 10, 2009 at 20:53 (8:53 pm)

    It is true that in many cases our diets are sub optimal but the idea that a pill can solve this issue is a misleading. While common sense may suggest a course of action, the improvements in healthcare and in particular our knowledge of healthcare have been driven by science, in particular the Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT). The article cited makes some good points and there is always potential for bias but as more research is carried out the effect of bias is typically reduced and mitigated.
    The book – “Trick or Treatment – Alternative Medicine on Trial” does an excellent job reviewing the process of understanding the treatment of disease explaining why the science is important and showing how this has been a key element of much of our recent and explosive progress in medical therapy. Adjunct nutritional supplements to counteract specific proven deficiencies makes sense but billions of dollars….the price tag is too high and the data insufficient to justify this level of expenditure.


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