Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vitamins A, C and E Increase Mortality! (and other nonsense from the realm of junk science)

The news has been filled with the story that the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E do not help people live longer, and in fact, may lead to early deaths. This made me skeptical since so many studies (405 at least - see below) have shown just the opposite.

Mike Adams, in an article over at Natural News, sets the record straight.

The latest attack on vitamins A, C, E, selenium and beta-carotene comes from the Cochrane Library, a widely-read source of information on conventional health matters. In the paper published yesterday, these antioxidants were linked with a higher risk of mortality ("they'll kill you!"), and now serious-sounding scientists have warned consumers away from taking vitamins altogether. But with all the benefits of antioxidants already well known to the well-informed, how did the Cochrane Library arrive at such a conclusion? It's easy: The researchers considered 452 studies on these vitamins, and they threw out the 405 studies where nobody died! That left just 47 studies where subjects died from various causes (one study was conducted on terminal heart patients, for example). From this hand-picked selection of studies, these researchers concluded that antioxidants increase mortality.

Just in case the magnitude of the scientific fraud taking place here has not yet become apparent, let me repeat what happened: These scientists claimed to be studying the effects of vitamins on mortality, right? They were conducting a meta-analysis based on reviewing established studies. But instead of conducting an honest review of all the studies, they arbitrarily decided to eliminate all studies in which vitamins prevented mortality and kept people alive! They did this by "excluding all studies in which no participants died." What was left to review? Only the studies in which people died from various causes.

Brilliant, huh? This sort of bass-ackward science would earn any teenager an "F" in high school science class. But apparently it's good enough for the Cochrane Library, not to mention all the mainstream press outlets that are now repeating these silly conclusions as scientific fact.

This same post also contains reviews of other "junk science" studies in the news lately, so check it out.

This was also included in a post at Medical News Today, near the bottom of the article (where few people are apt to see it):

Dr Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging and a professor with the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Medford/Somerville, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the review, told Health Behavior News Service that:

"I could find nowhere in this report any review of regulatory practices and effectiveness or the evaluation of public health policies, procedures or perspectives."

And a supplement industry spokesman, Dr Andrew Shao, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade association in Washington DC, questioned the way that studies were selected for the review. For example, the review only included studies where someone died.

"Four hundred [and] five studies which showed no deaths were excluded from the meta-analysis, which if included, clearly would have altered the outcome of the meta-analysis," said Shao, who maintained that antioxidant supplements were safe when part of a healthy diet.

Gluud said their methods were robust, because most of the trials in which no deaths occurred were not "proper preventative trials", he said, according to Health Behavior News.

Blumberg also said he was concerned about using criteria like "all-cause mortality" in research on antioxidants, because that included deaths from anything, for example cancer or a train wreck.

[Emphasis added.]

In a rare bit of "open source" science, the whole article is available to read: Click here for Article (PDF, Wiley Interscience, full article is 191 pages).

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