Beware–cancer doc rehashes old, discredited studies as “news”

In April, Dr. Tim Byers of the University of Colorado’s Cancer Center presented “new research” claiming men and women who take more dietary supplements than needed tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer.

Oh joy. Here we go again.

Over the years, a handful of studies have questioned the value of dietary supplementation. Over time, virtually every one of these studies has been disproven, discredited and debunked. Yet they keep turning up like a bad penny.

Meanwhile, thousands of studies continue to show the many benefits of nutrients and nutritional supplementation. Of course, the mainstream media outlets don’t do their homework and fail to report on these positive studies. So we only hear about the old, flawed, discredited studies…over and over and over.

Indeed–Dr. Byers’ “research” recently made it to the national nightly news. But anyone who follows the science could tell you Byers’ “investigation” involved a hodge-podge of old, largely discredited studies.

The first study cited by the good doctor focused on synthetic, isolated beta-carotene. And it dates back to the 1990s.

In that dusty, flawed, 25-year-old study, researchers found synthetic, isolated beta-carotene did not prevent cancer. Plus, it increased the risk of lung cancer in a population of chronic alcoholic, heavy smoking men and women who lived in Finland.

That information is all true.

But in interviews, Dr. Byers made it sound as if he conducted this study himself. He also made it sound like he “discovered” the fact that synthetic, isolated beta-carotene might act as a cancer promoter.

And that was misleading.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) conducted this study in the 1990s. It’s clearly not new.

Furthermore, if you’ve been reading my Daily Dispatch for a while, you should know the facts about synthetic, isolated beta-carotene quite well! I’ve been warning my readers not to take it for years.

You’d also know I predicted these results years before the NCI study began. I even tried to warn the NCI about it in advance!

So, why the heck does this “Johnny-come-lately” from Colorado think he knows anything new about it?

Of course, the big European drug company that manufactured synthetic beta-carotene supplements made a fortune in the 1990s…just from the news that the NCI was studying their product to prevent cancer.

The good news is–quality supplement manufacturers in the U.S. stopped using cheap, synthetic carotenoids after that study came out. They now use mixed carotenoids, which are more like the natural spectrum in actual fruits and vegetables.

Now–you may still wonder why the Finnish smokers and drinkers who took synthetic beta-carotene suffered higher rates of cancers. And that’s a valid question.

The answer’s quite simple.

It turns out, when the Finnish heavy smokers/drinkers took just one synthetic (and incorrect) carotenoid, it altered the absorption other helpful vitamins in their diet.

So, unless you’re a heavy-drinking, heavy-smoking Finn who takes fake beta-carotene, this great (outdated) “discovery” doesn’t apply to you. (Or to anyone, really.)

Now onto the second, “old news” study cited by Dr. Byers…the SELECT study that showed a selenium-vitamin E supplement did not prevent prostate cancer.

This trial had one fundamental flaw. They used the wrong form of vitamin E.

To be more specific, they didn’t use gamma-tocopherol, the form of vitamin E proven to work against cancer. Instead, they used high doses of the wrong form of isolated vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol).

In retrospect, researchers believe the wrong form displaced the correct form in these men in the study. And basically, it skewed the results.

Again, many high-quality supplement manufacturers in the U.S. now know better. They offer vitamin E supplements with gamma-tocopherol and mixed tocopherols, which are actually closer to the natural combinations found in healthy foods like fish.

I found it particularly revealing Dr. Byers didn’t publish his findings in a medical journal. (Not that any serious medical journal should have rehashed this flawed, old evidence. But if he had published it, independent scientists would have called him out.)

Instead, Dr. Byers delivered the information orally at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. And, oh yes, there was a press release from the mile-high University of Colorado to trumpet these great “findings” that “vitamins cause cancer” based on flimsy, outdated “evidence.”

I also found it curious that Dr. Byers’ attack on vitamins coincided with Dr. Mehmet Oz’s great, big mess with questionable weight-loss supplements.

As I’ve said before, you should never trust Dr. Oz, or any TV doctor, as your only source of health information. A review study showed you probably have a 50:50 chance the information you get is scientifically sound.

But there is one thing about Oz…

Although he’s no “wizard,” he does get it right on the big ideas. And he’s at least curious and open to finding nutritional and natural approaches for achieving good health.

In fact, as a busy heart surgeon at Columbia University 20 years ago, he took the time and trouble to learn about natural medicine from the first edition of my textbook, Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine now in its 5th edition.

You can find the whole, ugly story about the flawed beta-carotene and vitamin E studies by searching the archives on my website at

Plus, in the December 2014 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I wrote about the importance of getting enough of the right form of vitamin E. If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you can access this archived report by logging onto my website with your username and password. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.