What some doctors know (and do) about dietary supplements

Much of the academic-government-medical-research establishment remains mealy-mouthed about the benefits of dietary supplementation. Meanwhile tens of thousands of doctors have been taking dietary supplements for decades as part of a prestigious Harvard study. And have lowered their risk of cancer as a result.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) provides the evidence that long-term multivitamin use significantly reduces cancer in male physicians by 8 to 12 %.

So why shouldn’t you get the same benefits as these doctors? This study illustrates many of the basic points that some of us have understood for years. But it also points out limitations that remain—and that we can do so much better.

Some earlier studies have shown that using single, isolated, synthetic vitamins did not reduce the risk of cancer. And, in fact, even increased the risk in some—as in the case of beta-carotene.

But I have always pointed out the importance of using the right doses, in the right forms, and in the right combinations. A healthy diet contains many different vitamins and non-vitamin constituents which work together naturally. And so should a healthy dietary supplement. So at least this new study got it (partially) right by using a multivitamin combination. But they still made a mistake…

Researchers in this study used a low-quality, mass-marketed, mass-produced product. (The kind that’s made by companies that sink all their money into advertising instead of research.) The natural products industry has consistently and objectively ranked this supplement as among the very lowest in quality compared to the many other, higher-quality supplements available.

More high-quality products are often sadly less well-known to the general public because the best supplement companies spend money on quality and research—not just marketing. So imagine the full benefits you could get from taking the right supplements!

Unfortunately this report also perpetuates the tragic myth that dietary supplements interfere with cancer chemotherapy. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

While I directed the Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital we went through an arduous and thorough review with pharmacists, oncologists, and risk managers on this issue. And we proved there is no evidence that vitamins interfere with chemotherapy. Even at much higher doses than given in these multivitamin supplements.

The truth is you can get far better results than what was found in this Harvard study. If you work with doctors who actually know and understand nutrition and supplementation for managing medical conditions.

And yet no government agency recommends the routine use of dietary supplements “regardless of the quality of a person’s diet,” says the federal NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

This is the same bunch of bureaucrats who recently acknowledged that millions of children are malnourished, with many children getting too much of some dangerous vitamins and not enough of others that they need. NIH even admonished the vitamin industry to modify their vitamin formulations for children—yet refused to provide any actual guidelines on how they should be modified! This is government doublespeak at its worst.

This new study shows the cancer-prevention effects are observed over a period of 10 years. We always knew that the benefits of vitamins act slowly, cumulatively, over long periods. They are not a quick fix but have to be a long-term practice.

The good news is it’s never too late to start. The study results were best among the oldest group of men.

So, what do many “cancer experts” now have to say? We need more research, of course!  But the pharmacy industry isn’t waiting. Just today, I got a notice from my local pharmacy about the convincing results of this study—just in case I missed it. And there were already full-page advertisements from supplement makers in the Sunday papers.

But I never miss any real news (even when buried on the back pages) that comes out regarding our health. And neither will you by reading your Daily Dispatch and Insiders’ Cures newsletters. I’ll tell you everything you need to know, and what you don’t need to worry about as well.

“Multivitamins in the prevention of cancer in men.” JAMA. 2012;():1-10. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.14641.