High School Sports Center

Vitamins in the Media

by HSSC | Posted on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Vitamins in the Media

Are Dietary Supplements Really Harmful or Useless?

By Dr. Andra Campitelli, ND

Dietary supplements have received a lot of bad press in recent months, with news reports, articles and mainstream media taking a stab at the supplement industry. We keep hearing that supplements are lacking in research that proves their effectiveness, are unregulated and therefore dangerous, and that multivitamins and fish oil are not only useless, but harmful.  Let’s examine the studies making these claims and determine if these statements hold any weight.

1)  Dietary supplements are unregulated and lacking in research that proves their effectiveness.

When it comes to the world of supplementation, we often hear people make the bold (and erroneous) statements that there is no evidence to support that they help. My standard response to this is that these individuals are clearly not looking. There is an enormous body of research being conducted by highly respected and reputable research institutions that is clearly showing the benefits of dietary supplementation for disease management, prevention and just general health and well-being. A quick Internet search is all it takes to find it.

In terms of regulation, ALL dietary supplements within North America are regulated and subject to Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation. As stated on the FDA website:

“FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering ‘conventional’ foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA): FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.”

The FDA can, and has, shut down any supplement makers who do not meet these standards. Other supplement companies, such as Truestar, take it a step further, and voluntarily abide by additional quality standards to ensure an even greater quality product.

2)  Supplement safety

Due to the growing media attention towards supplements and claims of them being “harmful,” the safety of dietary supplements has been called into question. Dietary supplements are, in fact, quite safe, especially when taken as directed and under the supervision of a health care provider. It’s important to note that according to an analysis from the US Poison Control Center, there have been no reported deaths in the past 27 years due to dietary supplement consumption.

3)  Dietary supplements are useless and harmful

In 2013, supplements took a beating in the media, with reports that multivitamins were a waste of money and others that fish oil were linked to prostate cancer.

Fish Oil & Prostate Cancer

In July 2013, a study was published based on results from “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial” completed in 2011, linking fish oil to prostate cancer.

The study reported, after performing a single blood draw, that those individuals with higher blood levels of omega-3 fats had a greater risk of prostate cancer. They then concluded that supplementations with fish oil would increase your risk of prostate cancer.

Study flaws:

–  This study used data that was collected for the purpose of studying the relationship of selenium and vitamin E in relation to prostate cancer, NOT the role of omega-3 fatty acids in relation to prostate cancer.

–  The participants were never given fish oils during the study, so researchers could not address where the omega-3 fatty acids were coming from.

–  The study’s conclusions are based wholly on the results of a single blood test.

  • The Omega-3 index  measures both EPA and DHA within red blood cells
  • A much more accurate indicator of long-term omega-3 intake & tissue status
  • Plasma omega-3 level is subject to significant day-to-day variability

–  No regard for their health status & lifestyle 

  • Did they start using fish oil as a therapy once diagnosed with prostate cancer or had they been taking it all along?
  • Genetics, smoking, nutrition, exercise, environmental toxicity, stress

–  Did not consider toxins exposure and/or heavy metals from eating mercury-containing fish, which can cause cancer.

–  Participants who developed prostate cancer:

  • 53% were smokers
  • 64% regularly consumed alcohol
  • 30 % had at least one first-degree relative with prostate cancer
  • 80 % were overweight or obese

–  Conflicts with the results from other studies that do suggest that omega-3 fatty acids offer a protective benefit against prostate cancer.

Multivitamins are useless

In December of 2013, the Annals of Internal Medicine published two studies stating that multivitamins were ineffective.

a)  Long-Term Multivitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Men:  A Randomized Trial

  1. Concluded long-term multivitamin supplementation in male physicians aged 65 years or older did not significantly improve, compared to placebo, cognitive function test scores, including verbal memory testing considered predictive of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Study flaws:

–  Manage multivitamin expectations

–  Poor Adherence Criteria

  • Subjects were considered to have “adhered” if they took their supplements just two-thirds of the time.

–  Weak Questionnaire Data that Relied on Recollection

  • Subjects were asked to report how adherent they were once annually.

–  Low-Potency Multivitamin (Inadequate nutrient concentrations)

  • Even the researchers stated that a limitation of their study was that the doses of vitamins may have been too low.

–  Some Cognitive Benefits Despite Low Dose

b)  Oral High-Dose Multivitamins and Minerals After Myocardial Infarction:  A Randomized Trial

  2. Reported high doses of multivitamins did not statistically and significantly reduce subsequent cardiovascular events in U.S. and Canadian heart attack patients 50 years and older who received standard medications.

Study Flaws:

–  Poor Adherence Standards

  • 46% of subjects discontinued the multivitamin regimen.

–  Low-quality multivitamins

–  More Diabetes Patients Selected For Group Receiving Multivitamins

  • One of the strongest known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

–  Multivitamin was lacking in key cardio-protective nutrients and very low dosages

  • 100 IU Vitamin D
  • 100 mcg Vitamin B12

–  Study Downplays Reduced Cardiovascular Risk from Multivitamins

  • Report DID demonstrate reduced cardiovascular event rates for the multivitamin group: Not statistically significant.
  • The study set an effect threshold of 25%, which is abnormally high.

Based on the flaws found in these studies, it would be premature to determine that individuals should stop taking their multivitamins or fish oil, or that these supplements are more detrimental than beneficial.

Want to join the High School Sports Center Truestar Team? Email for more info…… info@highschoolsportsccenter.com





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