Above is a headline that I saw today while reading the news, my first thoughts were to close our health shop business and stop practicing nutritional therapy, fortunately my second thought was to track down the study that the article was based on and see if I match the conclusions of the undoubtedly highly qualified writer.
Above is the actual title of the study, assessing the effectiveness of supplementation one subset of conditions, cardiovascular disease, encompassing myocardial infarction (heart attacks), stroke and mortality rates. The headline suggests (to me at least) that vitamin supplement have no health benefits which cannot be inferred from either the study or the headline.
After digging deeper into the paper, which was a meta analysis, which means the authors, rather than conducting a research study, looked at a number of previously undertaken studies and compared findings and analysis to come up with a conclusion. What they found was that taking certain supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, C, B3, B complex, folic acid and antioxidants) shows mixed results, some showed a decreased risk although not statistically significant (multivitamins and vitamin D), some showed some decreased risk and some increased risk, but again not statistically significant (vitamin C, folic acid, B complex and B3) and calcium showed and increased risk.
There are a few interesting pieces of information missing from this study, one is that there is no indication of dosing between the studies, ie does more or less have a different effect, secondly which brands were used, not only is there a variance on price but also the quality of nutrients, do more expensive supplements perform better?
There are also a few additional, really important factors, as a registered nutritional therapist I would always recommend supplements on a case by case basis, not everyone needs the same supplements in the same doses. The second point is that if i was to recommend supplements to help with CVD, with exception of antioxidants, I wouldn’t recommend those supplements. There is evidence that omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils) can reduce the risk in CVD (Rimm et al 2018), Co enzyme Q 10 is an important heart protective antioxidant which can be depleted by statin use and has also been shown to have beneficial effect, although better quality studies are required to give a definitive answer.
Science is there to give and answer to a question although there is no guarantee that they are asking a good question in the first place. Journalism, is supposed to enlighten and inform people although let’s never underestimate the power of a catchy headline. Always seek advice from a qualified professional, especially with any health issues.
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