Forbes: Vitamins “Quackery” — The Same Old Discredited Studies Are Hauled Out

September 1, 2009
Category: Uncategorized

It’s silly, to tell the truth.  Every so often, a major news outlet will publish an article to discourage people from taking vitamin supplements.  The articles cite a by now familiar group of very badly designed and probably intentionally biased medical studies that are quoted because of their anti-supplement results.  Sometimes the same old bogus studies are cited over and over, but made to seem like breaking news.  Most recently, it was Forbes’ turn.
In their September 7 issue, Forbes Magazine presents a round-up of the latest in anti-supplement medical literature.   There are many things you should know about that were left out of the Forbes article.  For example the  of minuscule doses, odd forms, and less effective synthetic forms of vitamins instead of the natural and more complete forms in reasonable doses that do yield benefits.  Or that when study subjects are less-than-healthy and overweight, their already elevated risk of disease makes study results impossible to extrapolate to the general population. With respect to the doses, note  that even the American Medical Association says that the methods used to determine safe supplement dosages in the US and Europe are greatly flawed.  We often wonder if some of these studies aren’t intentionally designed to fail.
AAHF has covered this issue before.  For example, when the multivitamin study cited by the Forbes article was originally published back in February, we highlighted for you the major flaws in the study’s design.  We told you that the study specifically excluded multivitamin and mineral supplements that exceeded the US Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA), which are known to be far too low to yield useful heart disease and cancer protective effects.  That the findings could not be applied to the general public because the study involved only less-than-healthy, overweight, postmenopausal women taking trivial amounts of multivitamins and minerals, with no data on their earlier lives when disease causation would have been initiated.  And that the women in the study were not even given the same supplements to take, and reporting was left up to the subjects themselves, something that is never done in a proper scientific study.
There is another type of medical study the media loves to use to spread misinformation, the meta-analysis.  A meta-analysis is a study of other studies.  Meta-analysis is a great way to present biased research data without looking like your research data is biased, at least not to the untrained eye.  All you have to do is take a bunch of medical studies, throw out the ones you don’t like on spurious grounds, and present the studies you do like as evidence supporting the position you wish to promote.  The vitamin A study mentioned by Forbes is an example of a meta-analysis.
Why is the mainstream media so enamored of bad science?  Is it the sensational headlines?  The desire to protect advertising dollars from pharmaceutical companies?  Do they hate nature?  It’s hard to tell.  But we promise to keep exposing these stories for what they are and to bring you the real scoop, so that you can make informed decisions for yourselves about how to protect your health.
If any readers subscribe to Forbes, you may wish to let them know how you feel about their poorly informed article.  You can reach them at readers@forbes.com.

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