For years skeptics and mainstream dietitians have had just two things to say about taking vitamins and any other sort of supplement – there is no evidence they work and anyway you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy balanced diet (HBD).Repeating this, whatever any new research finds, has proved a highly effective tactic in discrediting vitamins, especially among doctors who have virtually no nutritional training, The official line is that we – people doing proper medicine – have good evidence that vitamins are a con – and you, vitamin sellers, are fraudulently selling false hope.
Now if this was true you would expect that researchers on the New Scientist magazine would be able metaphorically to chew up these evidence-free claims for breakfast. Show just how weak and flawed were the trials the vitamin peddlers relied on and how solid and authoritative the trials that showed they had no benefit.
But the article in last week’s issue – A-Zinc of vitamins – revealed just the opposite.They totally misreported the situation with high doses of B vitamins as a way of slowing down or preventing the brain shrinkage that comes with dementia, claiming trials showed no benefit. True that was only one supplement out of 20, supposedly assessed on the basis of the latest good evidence, but they did it so badly that it calls into question all their other judgements.
The team totally ignored one strong high quality randomised controlled trial that found very positive results from taking high dose B vitamins, exactly the kind of scientific research that the skeptics are always demanding, and instead relied on at least two very poor quality trials that seemed to have been designed with the sole intention of proving that B vitamins were a waste of time.
Dismissing vitamins is the irrational view
For details of the research involved and why is is hard to believe that the New Scientists approach was well-informed and unbiased have a look at the latest post on HealthInsightUK.org. And if the New Scientist, bastion of a rational, science based approach to the world, has got it so wrong then where does that leave all the rest of the supplement detractors?
I don’t believe that taking vitamins is a panacea, getting them from good wholesome food is obviously preferable to relying on pills, some of the claims for vitamins may well be unfounded, more good quality unbiased research is essential. I’m not an idiot and nor are most of the people who use supplements and have found them beneficial. In fact given poor health and poor nutritional state of so many people in the UK ,maintaining a blanket dismissal appears the irrational view.
As for the HBD being the only supplement source you need, that’s looking increasingly irrational too.The official view advises low fat, a recommendation with a shrinking evidence base, and it’s just not true in the case of Vitamin D, omega 3 and high dose B vitamins.
So get hold of a copy of the original article if you can – it’s on the New Scientist’s site entitled “A to zinc: What supplements are worth taking?” – but it may only be available to subscribers – and upload a comment here about any blatant misrepresentations you spot. Such a clear statement implying that most of you are gullible idiots deserves an equally clear rebuttal.