I found the recent media attention given to a “study” proclaiming that vitamins kill people, to be fascinating and confusing at the same time. I’ve taken vitamins and other supplements since about 1986, and last I checked, I’m in pretty darn good shape for a middle-aged man. In fact, my lab results from my most recent physical, were the best they’ve been in years. Should I be scared to continue taking my vitamins?
Dr Mark Hyman, a practicing physician, put any possible fears aside in a recent blog post for AOL Healthy Living. He wrote the best explanation of the problems with the design of the study, and the misguided conclusions it reached, that I’ve read.
In case you have not read, there was a study done on older white women in Iowa, which looked for an association between taking vitamins and death in these women.
It was an observational study, which looks for correlations or clues, that would lend themselves to further research to prove cause and effect. According to Dr Hyman, observational studies should never be used as guides for public health statements or clinical medicine practice.
In his post, Dr. Hyman stated:
“Unfortunately negative studies on vitamins get huge media attention, while the fact that over 100,000 Americans die and 2.2 million suffer serious adverse reactions from medication use in hospitals when used as prescribed is quitely ignored. Did you know that anti-inflammatories like asprin and ibuprofen kill more people every year than AIDS or asthma or leukemia?”
The “Vitamins Kill You” study, was found to be flawed by Dr. Hyman in the following ways:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) wasn’t taken consideration. This in spite of a previous well-known study that found increased risk of breat cancer, heart attack, stroke and death in women receiving HRT.
- Supplements containing Iron should never be given to older women, unless they have anemia.
- Patient backgounds were ignored. How was their health before the study began and why did they take vitamins?
- The study population consisted of only older white women. Thus, wasn’t representative and does not lead itself to generalized conclusions.
- The quality, forms, and dosages used by the women, were not identified.
- No comparisons were made between vitamins and the use of other medications, as cause of death.
In other words, the ”study” didn’t prove anything.
The Bottom Line: It’s imperative that before you consider anything covered in the “mass media” to be true, read it for yourself. Then do some research, to find out what ”real experts” think about any study and it’s implications for your health. Don’t put your health and well-being in the hands of a “talking head”, who may not know or care what a study really means.
Are you going to take your vitamins today?
It’s your life, live well.