The Vitamin Attack Scam:

By Sarah A LoBisco, ND

Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” and the originator of the medical oath itself, is credited with the quotation, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Ah, but just as time changes all things, this oath itself has been updated and revised in various forms for adaptation by different institutions.

Thankfully, the basis is still with the patients’ interest at heart. The intention remains pure and beautiful. However, there exists a gap in modern medicine from its roots in other areas. The physician’s dilemma to treat and manage patients in our current medical model has created treating the patient’s divided body parts and specialized organ systems vs. the whole person.

Health care, out of necessity, has shifted into a disease-management system. It has been led by insurance premiums that dictate not just diagnostics, but patients’ decisions in participating providers. This is especially true in our “more is better” society due to the media brainwash, that if we get one more thing, we’ll find happiness. An organic, healthy food grocery bill and individualized nutritional protocol cannot compete with the value of a $35 co-pay and the ability to charge clothes, cars, traveling, and other more acceptable “necessities” that promise bliss?

In our modern world of a “pill for every ill,” fast foods, texts, tweets, and overwork, lifestyle change and its dietary considerations have become labeled as stress in itself.  Nourishment, relaxation, and a state of being, what used to be accepted as the foundation of health, is now considered a nuance.

The absence of symptoms is now defined as the new criteria of wellness. As a Naturopathic and Functional Medicine Practitioner, this is not an acceptable measurement. Health is not just the absence of disease, but the amount of vitality and the measurement of organ system reserve to cope with life’s various stressors.

The Center for Disease control’s report released in early February of 2011 entitled, “The Health, United States 2010 With Special Feature on Death and Dying” provided some bleak evidence of the result of modern day medicine. The fact is, we may be living longer but our health and quality of life is deteriorating. Nathan S. Bryan, PhD, gave a wonderful summary in his current article for Integrative Practitioner:

Over the past ten years despite a slight increase in life expectancy and a decrease in all causes of deaths, the percent of the US population with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and obesity have all increased.  According to the 2010 National Center for Health Statistics Report life expectancy has increased 1.1 years over the past decade going from 76.8 to 77.9 [1].  All causes of death adjusted for age have decreased by 12.5% from 2000 to 2008.  However, the percent of the population 18 years and over with heart disease has risen from 10.9% to 11.8% and the population 65 and over has risen from 29.6% to 31.7% over the same 8 years.  Diabetes has gone from 8.5% of the population 20 years and older to 11.9% in just 8 years.  The percent of people with hypertension has risen from 28.9% to 32.6%.  Cancer has followed a similar trend going from 4.9% to 6.1% in patients 18 years old and over [1].  These data suggests that although people are living longer, they are not living better or they are living with a chronic disease that requires care and treatment.  It is the care and treatment of these chronic patients that causes the enormous economic burden on the health care system and on the patients.  In fact from 2000 to 2008, total healthcare expenditures increased from $1.1 to $2.0 trillion dollars or from $4,032 to $6,411 per capita [1].

In such an unhealthy nation of fast foods and increasing obesity rates, over half of medical schools still are not training their physicians in true health and maintenance of the whole body. Dr. Hyman revealed this shocking fact and contrasted the nutrigenomic effects of food on disease processes with the current warnings of regulated medications (such as the increased risk of diabetes with statin drugs).

Yet….one may look at the current headlines on the danger of natural substances (mostly funded by various pharmaceuticals or special interests) as a disservice to the modern day health care consumer. I recently had the privilege of interviewing the author of the book, Anti-Vitamin Baloney, Thomas Petrie, C.D.N. Thomas recently published this intelligent and scientific documented rebuttal to several media attacks on various supplements and vitamins. This conversation ignited in me a desire to provide this information in order to scientifically and rationally address the outpouring of the various vitamin scare and smear campaigns in the media.

In his introduction, Thomas lays out his own purpose of his latest release as being threefold:

  1. To examine various articles and nutritional myths and explore rational objections in detail
  2. To address why the main-stream is working so hard to demonize vitamins and supplements
  3. To point out how ignoring nutrition and lifestyle factors in “health care” is creating a country with sad health statistics

It’s true that the media would have us believe it is more harmful to take a vitamin supplement than a FDA approved medication with proper testing and oversight, yet the statistics don’t add up. Thomas states:

A better question might be how the Food and Drug Administration has betrayed the public trust by allowing so many dangerous drugs onto the American market place and why they don‘t enforce the regulations that are already on the books. In defense of the Food and Drug Administration, it has often been said that this agency is woefully underfunded, so an ?easier? target (and to make the public think they‘re working for their interests), they go after vitamin and herbal companies. Shockingly, they even go after cherry growers for making claims that their products can help fight arthritis! So when Vioxx (an anti-inflammatory prescription drug), was proven to have caused over 55,000 deaths, the FDA looked the other way, but when cherry growers just want to merely report ?studies have shown that cherries can fight inflammation as well as some anti-inflammatory drugs? (a fact), twenty-seven letters of reprimand went out to Michigan cherry growers!

Furthermore, as Thomas points out later in his reference to deaths by medicine vs. supplements:

According to a comprehensive investigation published in Life Extension in 2004, entitled Death by Medicine, there are over 780,000 deaths each year from our current paradigm of allopathic medicine of which over 100,000 are from prescription drugs alone. Deaths from vitamins over the previous 27 years was analyzed by Andrew Saul and Jagan N. Vaman, M.D. and published in the June 14, 2011 issue of the Orthomolecular News Service. Entitled ?No Deaths from Vitamins—None at All in 27 Years? shows an amazing contrast between public perception and reality. So the number in the above box on the right could have been ?Death by Modern Medicine,? nearly three million over 27 years while there have been zero documented deaths by vitamins. The Centers for Disease Control also lent support to the extremely safe nature of dietary supplements when they reported in 2008, not only zero deaths for any vitamin, but also zero deaths from any mineral, herb or amino acid!

To be clear, the issue of quality and dosage of nutritional supplements does exist in the marketplace and should be addressed. Specifically, many consumers are taking the wrong kinds of supplements, from the wrong companies, in the wrong form. They are low quality, not absorbable, without synergistic components, and are not suitable for their condition.

That is a concern. Similarly, as it is important to consult a physician for a medication on a serious medical issue, it is just as important to consult a trained professional for recommendations and guidance for nutritional advice with this same issue. However, the seriousness of this concern statistically speaks for itself: zero deaths from supplements (not properly prescribed) vs. thousands of deaths from properly prescribed medications per year.

Thomas reviews and informs the reader in detail about the shortcomings of various nutritional studies in the media that are portraying the dangers of supplements without a true analysis of the actual risk. Thomas points out that these studies share similar features:

  1. These studies don’t account for the quality of the supplement, accurate dosages, or the correct form of the vitamin used for specific conditions.

For example, the bioavailability of a synergistic blend of vitamin E would include all its isomeric forms in a mixture of selenium, tocopherols, and tocotrienals. Each component creates a different response in the body. Most studies with Vitamin E use only alpha tocopherol. Thomas explains:

As most health conscious readers know, the form of vitamin E taken is very important in determining its effectiveness. (Also see chapters 4 and 9 in this book.) This AMA study used what most, if not all, past negative vitamin E studies have used: the synthetic form of the vitamin! In addition, like all previous negative vitamin E studies, they used insufficient doses of the vitamin. Finally, the form of vitamin E was only the alpha form NOT the mixed tocopherol form, which as discussed in Chapter 4, is necessary for the reduction of ?reactive nitrogen species.? And as addressed in chapter 9, it is the gamma tocopherol form that is most effective in preventing the formation of ?oxidized LDLs,? the form that is most likely to cause heart disease by clogging the arteries!11 Despite worldwide research indicating the benefits of gamma-tocopherols to human health,12 the medical profession and the mainstream media continue to pretend as if synthetic alpha tocopherol is all the body needs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Another example is folic acid:

Folates are naturally occurring compounds found in food

• Folic acid is a fully oxidized, synthetic compound (pteroylmonoglutamic acid)

• Those born with enzyme defects in conversion, such as A1298C or C677T MTHFR mutation do not properly convert folic acid into natural folates including 5-MTHF

• It is unmetabolized folic acid is what is connected to an increase in the number of cancer deaths in the US.

The fact that processed foods contain folic acid not folates is excluded in various negative studies.

  1. Certain negative studies use nutrients that are contraindicated for a condition. For instance, in cancer, copper and iron can promote tumor growth and only multivitamins that do not contain these nutrients should be used.  Furthermore, studies should control for only high quality vitamins with no additional colorings, synthetics, or fillers that can compound the results.
  1. Most dosages are considerably low- only enough to prevent a disease over time not promote health (RDIs).
  1. The length of most studies don’t account for proper analysis or risk assessment.
  1. Funding of the studies may create a bias slant to report or hide favorable results of vitamins. Patenting natural substances is an expensive process in which little money can be made.
  1. Antioxidants are essential for health, and most American diets are deficient in them.  Antioxidants need to be “team players” in order to recycle the pro-oxidation status, and their conversion depends on liver, thyroid, and digestive health. For example, beta carotene should be taken with Vitamin C, Vitamin A intake should include Vitamin D.

Anti-Vitamin Baloney continues on with various references and rebuttals of recent articles on many different nutrients. Two comprehensive appendixes are included which discuss the environmental factors relating to cancer and why negative press on vitamins is so predominate.

Furthermore, the table of contents provides an easy, quick reference guide to finding the rebuttal of selected nutrients in the press. The reader also has access to the science of these nutrients in a way that allows one to compare future studies for good scientific research. I encourage all those interested in learning more about the downfalls of various studies to purchase a copy of Thomas’ book as a reference to have on hand.

What makes me really question the intention of why the attacks on vitamins may not be related to safety concerns is the following:

Click on this link to hear my interview with Thomas Petrie, C.D.N on his book, Anti-Vitamin Baloney.

Thought to ponder:

Vitamin is New Drug-(Metanx)

This new patented formula is a combination of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B5! Marketed and patented as a drug…so…conventional medicine is finally seeing the light!? Maybe the powers that be attack vitamins; however, if they are patentable, they are now safe?

Petrie, Thomas. Anti-Vitamin Boloney. Llumina Press. Tamarac, FL. USA.  2011.

Gersten,MD. The Modern Oath of Hippocrates. Atlantis: The Imagery Newsletter. Accessed 5/1/2012.

This med has methylfolate, methylated B12 and P5P……

Nathan S. Bryan, Ph.D. The Role of Nitric Oxide Insufficiency In Aging & Disease. Integrative Practitioner. April 2012.

Center for Disease Control. Health, United States 2010 With Special Feature on Death and Dying   U.S. Government Printing Office, Hyattsville, MD. pg 22-29

NCCAM: View press release, fact sheet, full report, and graphics about CAM Use in 2007

Functional Medicine is 21st Century Medicine, Mark Hyman, MD and IFM Chairman by The Institute for Functional Med. From “Introduction to Functional Medicine: Redefining Disease in Applied Systems Medicine. AFMCP. September 2011. University of Miami.

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