Saturday, May 13, 2006

Yahoo Health "Are Supplements Safe?"

Yesterday on the Yahoo! Featured Health Story was a video interview with two nutritionists discussing the safety of supplements. Who they were doesn’t matter, at least to me. The discussion was the standard blather focusing on the risks associated with supplements, mostly herbs. It went something like this:

Supplement makers make wild claims, blah, blah, blah…few studies, blah, blah…no regulation, drone…ephedra…must be careful about vitamin E with Coumadin and aspirin, blah, blah, blah

It all boiled down to:

All this stuff might be dangerous
It not regulated by the FDA
It’s all probably worthless anyway

You’ve heard it all before. Let’s talk about each one of these, specifically in relation to vitamin C:

Danger:

There has not been a reported case that I’ve heard of of anyone dying of a vitamin C overdose. The closest thing to this is a patient in Pauling and Cameron’s cancer study that died from an overload of necrotic tissue, probably as a result of the vitamin C therapy killing cancer cells. This man was close to death at the time the C therapy started, but he did take large doses of vitamin C and died, at least to some extent as a result.

How about aspirin? According to J.S.Hochman, MD, 
Executive Director 
National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain in an article NSAID deaths these “safe” over-the counter drugs account for more deaths than AIDS!

FDA ensures safety?

How about prescription drugs? In my “In The News” section, I discuss a study that shows that 100,000 people a year die of drug reactions while in the hospital!

Worthless?

One of the nutritionists mentioned a site, Supplement Watch. On their vitamin C overview page the standard fare is laid out about vitamin C and the common cold. Then they discuss some studies using higher doses (now we’re talking!) The most dramatic of these is discussed:

“In one large study (over 700 students), vitamin C (1000 mg per hour for the first 6 hours followed by 3000 mg per day), reduced cold and flu symptoms by 85%.”

And if that weren’t good enough, how about:

“At least 3 controlled studies have shown an 80% reduction in the incidence of pneumonia among vitamin C users.”

All these discussions about supplements, the lack of regulation, the discussion of interactions with drugs and the constant mouthing of “not enough study data” infuriates me and ignores the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is “this stuff is safe and vital to health”.