Recently, the media has been sounding the alarms about an Archives of Internal Medicine study linking vitamin and mineral usage to an increased risk of death. Please don’t be alarmed by the reporting or this study. You should know that every week, there are positive studies about vitamin usage from the same prestigious journals and universities. For whatever reason (influence of money from drug companies might be a tiny clue), these positive studies don’t even make the back pages of the papers, but the negative studies make the front pages.
Here are some of the positive studies that came out just in the past couple months (the earliest being August 20, 2011).
European Journal of Ophthalmology – The carotenoids lutein/zeaxanthin and astaxanthin (plant compounds that are precursors to vitamin A) were found to provide clinically meaningful improvements in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and visual function through 24 months. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22009916
Journal of the American Medical Association – The usage of folic acid during pregnancy reduced the risk of severe language delay in children by 45%. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21990300
Integrative Cancer Therapies Journal. The usage of Chinese herbs along with vitamins in combination with standard chemotherapy/radiation treatment reduced colon cancer stage 1 deaths by 95%, stage 2 by 64%, stage 3 by 29%, and stage 4 by 75% when compared to standard therapy alone. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21964510
BMC Public Health Journal – Vitamin D insufficiency in Malaysian adults was associated with a 157% greater risk of abdominal obesity, and 73% greater risk of metabolic syndrome. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21943301
Journal of the American College of Nutrition – Harvard study shows that in men (though not in women), supplemental vitamin C and E lowers upper respiratory tract infection risk by 31% and 44%, respectively. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21917705
Here are more previous studies on vitamins and their effect on chronic disease and mortality:
Cochrane Database – Fifty studies compiled together (this is a huge sample size) indicate that vitamin D3 reduces mortality by 6% on average. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21735411
Stroke: A Journal of Cerebral Circulation – The highest versus lowest quintile of vitamin C usage saw a 30% decrease in strokes, 37% decrease in coronary heart disease and 21% decrease in total cardiovascular disease for women (but not men). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21512181
Age and Ageing Journal – In men over age 71, vitamin E supplementation reduced mortality by 24%. For those men sufficient in vitamin C and who smoked less than a pack a day, vitamin E increased life expectancy by 2 years. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21242192
Journal of Nutrition – The highest tertile of vitamin K2 intake saw a 26% drop in overall mortality compared to the lowest tertile. In addition, coronary heart disease risk was 57% lower and aortic calcification was 52% lower in the same population. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15514282
Did I cherry-pick these studies? Yes I did, but clearly the media cherry-picks as well (otherwise you would have heard about all of these), so this is meant to be a balance against their picks. Also, keep in mind that those studies that do find negatives to vitamins almost always are extremely slight. For example, other than copper, the highest raised risk of mortality in this study was 5.9%, and most were under 4%. For those positive studies, often ranges of 20 to 30% percent improvement are found. Therefore, you can relax and not worry about media-hyped studies. When you take your vitamins, you are still doing your body good.