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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bias Against Natural Products

Bias Against Natural Products By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA June 8, 2009 Once again, a widely distributed article has savagely attacked the safety and efficacy of natural products; including vitamins, minerals, and herbs. That this article may be more commentary than journalism is immediately revealed by the author inexplicably linking energy medicine (with admitted health benefits for patients) with a concocted image of “shooing evil spirits”, even when performed by technicians in a top trauma hospital. The ignorance of journalists and medical experts is exposed when they claim that natural products are intended as cures and treatments. These products are actually prohibited by law from claiming this; allowed only documented claims to support healthy body structures and functions. Ironically, this is the same law – the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, DSHEA - that is falsely mischaracterized as “deregulation” of the industry. In fact, this law prohibits new ingredients without FDA pre-approval; empowers the agency to regulate manufacturing, advertising, and label claims; prohibits unsafe, adulterated, and mislabeled products; and even allows banning a product based on only theoretical risks. A recent companion law requires all serious adverse events be reported to the FDA; generating far fewer reports than expected. The erroneous assumption that dietary supplements should be considered as potential treatments or cures has resulted in many negative reports. One problem is that some medical researchers, perhaps too used to drug studies using novel substances, sometimes base reports mainly on supplementation levels but fail to properly understand or explain other relevant variables such as dietary intake and relationships to other nutrients that affect body levels and functions of the targeted nutrient. The synergies of natural substances in the diet are complex and interactive, but many researchers design simplistic studies that generate incomplete or misleading data; often leading to dramatic conclusions that the pharmaceutical advertising-dependent press eats up. A press that fails to investigate and present all of the relevant facts and perspectives in a sensational negative report may be accused of laziness, if not bias. Rigorous studies refuting negative reports about the safety of vitamin E, beta-carotene, herbs, the use of supplements with cancer treatments, and drug-nutrient interactions have been noticeably absent from the same media that eagerly broadcasts reports attacking nature’s own nourishing substances. Sadly, there is no matching eagerness to set the record straight. Let’s keep this in perspective. We have all seen drugs pulled from the market because of unforeseen safety issues, medical schools and authors of articles published in peer-reviewed journals accused of being on the take from pharmaceutical companies, contaminated drugs as well as hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of hospitalizations caused by pharmaceutical side effects each year. Foods cause hundreds of deaths and millions of illnesses annually. Compare this to dietary supplement safety, where proven deaths are extremely rare. Supplement users believe in the healing power of nature, at odds with the often unproven treatments of conventional medicine. The goal of Integrative Medicine is putting aside traditional institutional medical bias to allow science to dictate the comprehensive treatment of an individual patient, including quality of life issues. Many millions of Americans choose to use natural products in order to protect and improve their own health and vitality. Reasonable people will reject these sensational assaults on natural health (including dietary supplements), recognizing that conventional medicine sometimes fails without a little help from Mother Nature. References: Cancer patients may very well tolerate the use of certain dietary supplements The truth about Vitamin E - Vitamin E is safer than implied Scientists to discuss benefits of vitamin E Vitamin review offers balanced perspective to recent negative findings Antioxidant supplements - myth or misunderstood? Prominent Nutritionist Sets The Record Straight FDA regulation of dietary supplements is sufficient Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic efficacy: a systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. Block KI, Koch AC, Mead MN, Tothy PK, Newman RA, Gyllenhaal C. Cancer Treat Rev. 2007 Aug;33(5):407-18. Epub 2007 Mar 23. Review. PMID: 17367938 Antioxidants and other nutrients do not interfere with chemotherapy or radiation therapy and can increase kill and increase survival, part 1. Simone CB 2nd, Simone NL, Simone V, Simone CB. Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):22-8. Review. PMID: 17283738 Should patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy be prescribed antioxidants? Moss RW. Integr Cancer Ther. 2006 Mar;5(1):63-82. Review. PMID: 16484715 Multiple dietary antioxidants enhance the efficacy of standard and experimental cancer therapies and decrease their toxicity. Prasad KN. Integr Cancer Ther. 2004 Dec;3(4):310-22. Review. PMID: 15523102 The efficacy and safety of multivitamin and mineral supplement use to prevent cancer and chronic disease in adults: a systematic review for a National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science conference. Huang HY, Caballero B, Chang S, Alberg AJ, Semba RD, Schneyer CR, Wilson RF, Cheng TY, Vassy J, Prokopowicz G, Barnes GJ 2nd, Bass EB. Ann Intern Med. 2006 Sep 5;145(5):372-85. Epub 2006 Jul 31. Review. PMID: 16880453 Higher baseline serum concentrations of vitamin E are associated with lower total and cause-specific mortality in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. Margaret E Wright, Karla A Lawson, Stephanie J Weinstein, Pirjo Pietinen, Philip R Taylor, Jarmo Virtamo and Demetrius Albanes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1200-1207, November 2006. (Researchers were from the Nutritional Epidemiology and the Genetic Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and the Department of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland) Vitamins E and C are safe across a broad range of intakes. John N Hathcock, et al. 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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999 Dec 15;91(24):2102-6. PMID: 10601381 The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994 Apr 14;330(15):1029-35. PMID: 8127329 Development of a comprehensive dietary antioxidant index and application to lung cancer risk in a cohort of male smokers. Wright ME, et al. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Jul 1;160(1):68-76. PMID: 15229119 Plasma carotene and alpha-tocopherol in relation to 10-y all-cause and cause-specific mortality in European elderly: the Survey in Europe on Nutrition and the Elderly, a Concerted Action (SENECA). Buijsse B, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Oct;82(4):879-86. PMID: 16210720 Effect of multivitamin and mineral supplementation on episodes of infection in nursing home residents: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Liu BA, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Jan;55(1):35-42. 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