Oxford scientists’ shameful study repeats fundamental flaws

In yesterday’s Daily Dispatch, I told you about a faulty study by Oxford researchers who claimed B vitamins have no benefit when it comes to brain health. Of course, the study made headlines. But it’s nothing more than another example of “pseudo-science.”

Even if it had been a legitimate test of the association of B vitamins with brain health, as a single lonely study, it still should not have made headlines. As I said yesterday, hundreds of other studies show B vitamins do support brain and nervous system health. And they support heart health as well.

But the lonely Oxford study wasn’t even a legitimate test. Here’s why…

  1. The researchers did not design the study correctly to be able to test what they were trying to show.
  1. The researchers did not appropriately select the study population to be able to demonstrate an effect of B vitamin nutrition on anything.
  1. Despite these two blunders in the study’s format, the Oxford researchers still observed statistically significant changes (scientific fact) in the participants’ brains. But they dismissed these changes as “not clinically significant” (medical opinion) in their conclusion.

And there was another fundamental flaw in the study’s design…

Incredibly, this study evaluated only people with normal cognition and brain function.

Now, consider this: If your study claims to evaluate whether supplementation with vitamin B will improve cognitive impairment, how can you make any worthy conclusions unless the study population has cognitive impairment to begin with?

A thoughtful, and perhaps overly polite, researcher from the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Aging, who was not affiliated with this particular study, asked, “As there was no cognitive decline…what were they expecting to show?”

He also said, “It has never been suggested that vitamin B would improve cognition in people with normal brain function.” If the researchers purportedly designed this study to show whether B vitamins have cognitive benefits, “it was impossible to show this” in the first place.

This enormous blunder reminds me of the U.S. college study done in 2002 that tried to show a popular dietary supplement did not improve memory. In Europe, the supplement was already well-established as an effective treatment…but only for memory impairment.

Turns out, the U.S. study only looked at college students with normal memory. Nobody had memory impairment. So, when this stupid study all-too-predictably found that people with normal memory did not get their memory enhanced to “super-memory,” it made national headlines. Once again, the press made the sweeping proclamation “supplements don’t work.”

The finding from this old college student study prompted ridiculous reports, reviews, and discussions at medical meetings for the next year. But they were all based on a totally false scientific premise. What a waste. And for most busy doctors, that pseudo-study from a dozen years ago was the “last word.” (Until now.) So, for the anti-nutrition nincompoops, it was “mission accomplished.”

But back to the Oxford study. Amazingly, it had the most important fundamental flaw of all.

The Oxford amateurs made one of the most basic mistakes of all when they designed this clinical trial. (And it happens all too often when clueless mainstream researchers wade into human diet and nutrition.)

It turns out their participants were already generally well-nourished with B vitamins. In other words, they weren’t generally low in B vitamins. So giving more B vitamins to people who already had generally enough B vitamins was not really testing anything.

Plus, since B vitamins are water-soluble, the body can’t even store any “extra” vitamin B for later. So there was no possible benefit for anything in most of this population. (I’ll give you all the details about how and why the right daily doses of these vitamins work in the February issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)

This fundamental flaw is known as the “healthy volunteer” effect. That is, people who volunteer for studies have a greater interest to begin with in their health. In this particular case, they also generally took in plenty of B vitamins. And they mostly had sufficiently high B vitamin nutritional status already.

So, the researchers then gave more B vitamins to people who mostly already had enough. Clearly, most of these men and women weren’t going to, and in fact couldn’t, benefit from more. The body simply excretes any B vitamin more than it needs on a daily basis.

This fundamental mistake guaranteed the researchers would not find any dramatic response as an outcome.

Yet, amazingly, despite their elementary errors in research design and study population, the researchers actually did detect some slight, statistically significant differences between the treated group and placebo. But then they pulled out their final trump card and dismissed their own findings as “not clinically significant.”

Bottom line?

The effects of B vitamins are so strong it even overcame the Oxford researchers’ pathetically poor research design to show they still have some benefits!

This study reminded me of trying to look through smoke and mirrors.

Of course, Lewis Carroll–author of Through the Looking Glass (Alice in Wonderland)–was affiliated with Oxford. They should have made him an honorary co-author of this study.

Sadly, it’s just another wasted study. Meanwhile, victims of Alzheimer’s disease are crying out for help. Plus, this horrible disease will needlessly strike millions and millions of Americans over the next decade. Plus, as we told last week, it will strike many more than we have been led to believe.

So–while mainstream scientists twiddle their thumbs and waste precious time and research on useless “studies,” please make sure to protect yourself.

Each and every day take a high-quality B vitamin complex, 5,000 IU of vitamin D, and 50 to 200 IU of vitamin E. There are also good herbal ingredients for brain health, including turmeric (curcumin) and berberine.


  1. “Results of 2-year vitamin B treatment on cognitive performance: Secondary data from an RCT,” Neurology, published on-line before print November 12, 2014