November 25, 2011

Will supplements really cause
you to die early?

Once again a scientific report is attacking your supplements. This time, a study says they might shorten your life! The study, released a couple weeks ago, continues to make news. But few are looking at the real truth of the report. Here’s what you need to know.

The report did an analysis of vitamin supplement intake on 38,772 older women over 22 years old. They found, of 15 supplements studied, that folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, copper, and multivitamins increased your risk of early death. But iron was the one nutrient that led the pack. Let’s look at how the study was done. Then I’ll give you my two cents.

The first real problem was how the researchers “measured” supplement intake. They based their measurements on just a few questionnaires sent to the 38,772 women. These questionnaires relied on the memory of the participants of what they consumed in the past. That kind of data is often next to worthless.

Next, there was virtually no control for underlying problems. The study admitted that the researchers permitted hypertension and diabetes subjects into the study. But they excluded other chronic diseases. Last time I checked, people with hypertension and diabetes die earlier. So, we have no way to know if supplements were in any way connected with the increased death risk.

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We also have no way to know if the participants were taking petrochemical drugs during the study. Perhaps drug therapy was the real cause of death. Last time I looked, prescription drugs have killed perhaps millions worldwide. But there have been no reported deaths from taking any of the above supplements when taken in recommended amounts. Iron is the only one that really presents a problem.

Analyzing for iron and throwing it into the mix was a great flaw in my book. We’ve known for years that iron, while a nutritional mineral, can be highly toxic if you get more than you need. That’s why none of the high quality multiple vitamin/minerals made by reputable companies contains iron. You should take iron only if you have a documented deficiency. Excess iron can lead to rusting of your arteries and cell membranes! These participants were women well past menopause, long having lost the protective effects of their cycle to shed excess iron. So, if iron was a key culprit in raising risk, the researchers succeeded in tainting the name of other nutrients.

Here’s my take on the rest of the supplements. Even well-meaning research can have false findings, especially when set up so very poorly. This study flies in the face of many others, which have found that supplements are of value. Yet it’s the negative, poorly done studies that get all the press.

I maintain my stand that you should clean up your diet as I write about in these pages. This will reduce your need for supplements. For instance, I think supplemental selenium is great. But you can get all you need from three to four Brazil nuts per day.

I personally don’t take a multivitamin, except when I travel. But you know how I eat. If you’re not going to eat like I do, I still recommend a multiple vitamin/mineral supplement, such as Healthy Resolve. I see the effects clinically, even in my own family. I believe that mineral deficiency is epidemic in America today, and that most everyone could benefit from mineral supplements.  So I take this study with a grain of salt. And so should you.



Ref: Archives of Internal Medicine, October 11, 2011.


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