Flawed Research Used to Discredit Vitamin Use

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Dr. Richard Shames is no stranger to research or vitamins. The Harvard-trained physician, author and thyroid expert is an Associate Practitioner at Preventive Medical Center of Marin (http://www.pmcmarin.com ) in San Rafael, CA. Dr. Shames has been practicing medicine for more than 4 decades during which he has seen more than his share of claims made about cures and supplements. When he learned of a recently-released “health study”, however, he simply had to speak out.

Dr. Richard Shames

Dr. Richard Shames

“Needless to say, even this brief exposure was a public relations score for pharmaceutical interests, as millions of people worldwide may be frightened away from supplements that could reduce their future need for expensive prescription drugs.”

Published in the October edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, this research was called the Iowa Woman's Health Study consisting of a questionnaire review of post-menopausal women living in Iowa. The idea was to see if taking vitamin supplements reduced mortality rates in older women.

“This study supposedly shows that taking vitamin supplements actually shortens one’s lifespan,” said Dr. Shames…”Don't believe it. This is a flawed study.”
Dr. Shames continued, “Unfortunately, the mainstream media has seized upon some of the study’s erroneous conclusions in a manner best described as yellow journalism. “

When asked what the flaws were in the study, Dr. Shames indicated the study showed that taking vitamins C, D, E, and calcium, alone or in combination, was moderately associated with longer survival. Other nutrients, like strong doses of iron and vitamin A, however, had a major detrimental effect. So the study authors combined all of these effects to get a meaningless “average” of a mild detrimental effect of “taking vitamins in general”.

“Another flaw was how the researchers controlled for specific factors like weight, diet, disease, smoking other factors. For instance, a sizable percentage of the study group were on hormones (including the hazardous non bio-identical combo of Premarin and Provera). Likely the health conscious hormone-taking women were more likely to be also taking vitamins. The study lumped them all together.”

Dr. Shames maintains that one of the biggest flaws in the study is the doubtful validity of self-reported questionnaires, without verification controls. According to him, the more reliable WHI Study (Women/s Health Initiative) used good validation techniques. This present study did not. “In addition”, Dr. Shames continued, “this study did not take into account the quality or the source of the vitamins mentioned. The actual benefit of vitamins has long been known to be reduced by the adverse effects of additives, and by-products found in cheaper brands. What type of vitamins do you suppose most of the elderly ladies of Iowa were taking?
“It was already quite clear before this study that older women should not be taking iron; or that no one should be taking high doses of vitamin A. To now utilize that older news to discourage sensible taking of beneficial vitamins is a big mistake.”

“Today’s consumers are confronted with so-called “scientific” reports that question the value of some dietary supplements,” said Dr. Shames. "In my view, many of these reports seem purposely deceptive, with the intent of falsifying the true conclusions of the overwhelming number of studies that confirm the benefits of taking vitamins. In this case, the economic beneficiaries will be pharmaceutical companies who can expect increased sales of prescription drugs to those who fall for the latest media hype. As has been the case of previous studies conducted by mainstream doctors, the potencies of the nutrients evaluated in this negative report are far different than what knowledgeable health conscious consumers take on a daily basis. So while the media was running headlines like “Taking Vitamins May Shorten Your Life”, the report the headline was based on omitted most of the vitamin studies that should have been included. This obvious bias rendered the findings meaningless. Of 815 studies considered, only 67 were included for the meta-analysis.”

Dr. Shames continued, “In today’s Western world, a large percentage of the population fails to ingest optimal potencies of many essential nutrients. As you will read in part two of this report, a shocking majority (93-96%) of people of people who don’t supplement with vitamin E are deficient in vitamin E. This negative report attacking supplements is fatally flawed because it:
1.    Omitted 91% of the studies that measured the effects of these vitamins on human subjects including all studies for which there was no mortality!
2.    Included studies that used doses far below or far above what health conscious people actually supplement with.
3.    Chose to bias the reporting of the results by emphasizing one type of statistical model that showed a significant effect rather than another statistical model that did not show a significant effect.
4.    Failed to account for the 14 mechanisms involved in aging and premature death. For example, it is absurd to think that taking 1,333 IU to 200,000 IU of vitamin A is going to have meaningful impact when there are more than one hundred individual components to a science-based death reduction program. “

“The final shocker is that this meta-analysis report attacking vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin E is not new. It was in fact published last year and drew a lot of criticism for the obvious flaws it contains. Perhaps the reason this story was quickly removed from media websites on the day it appeared is that the broadcasters realized they were not relaying “news”, but instead regurgitating anti-supplement propaganda.”

“Needless to say, even this brief exposure was a public relations score for pharmaceutical interests, as millions of people worldwide may be frightened away from supplements that could reduce their future need for expensive prescription drugs.”

When asked what we might learn from this, Shames was very clear. “How about concluding that it's not very smart to get our health information from the mainstream media. This is an age of scare headlines or business driven news. The erroneous conclusions from this latest flawed vitamin study were used to grab your attention, rather than truly inform.”

Dr. Shames’ final words of advice: “The main thing to remember is that you need to be extremely skeptical with health claims that are media reported. Instead find a source of health information that you can better rely upon.”

Richard L. Shames, MD
Integrated Medical Doctor
Health Care Consultant
Dr. Richard Shames is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Prior to entering private practice, he received extensive training in conventional medicine with the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, and other facilities. In the 1970s, as Medical Director of the Wholistic Health & Nutrition Institute (WHN) in Mill Valley, CA. Dr. Shames and staff began the blend of conventional medicine with safe and appropriate natural remedies. Dr. Shames is currently an Associate Practitioner at Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, CA (http://www.pmcmarin.com ). Dr. Shames' philosophy of medicine is more completely expressed in his books, including his most recent book Thyroid Mind Power, plus his previous books, Thyroid and Mental Health, Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled? and his previous Thyroid Power: Ten Steps to Total Health, all co-authored with his wife Karilee Shames PhD, RN., and (Thyroid Mind Power ) also co-authored by his daughter, Dr. Gigi Shames. The Shames team teaches seminars nationwide to both healthcare providers and the general public. Dr. Shames considers himself a Consulting Physician and Personal Health Coach, currently focusing on thyroid and adrenal disorders and their many related conditions. His innovative approach to "internet medicine" and telephone coaching has many devoted clients around the country.

For more information about Dr. Shames, his books, and the Shames health team, visit:
http://www.thyroidmindpower.com
http://www.feelingfff.com/

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