Regarding: “Vitamin Pills: A False Hope.”, New York Times, 02/16/09

February 17, 2009
To the Editor:
Your February 16 article, “Vitamin Pills: A False Hope?” made reference to “high-quality” studies that supported the researchers’ conclusions. Unfortunately, these “high-quality” studies not only have inherent flaws in the methods they utilized, but are creating unwarranted confusion as well.
As noted in the article, “vitamins are essential nutrients that people ingest in their daily diets.” This, however, is actually the most significant flaw in these vitamin studies: in contrast to drug studies, which employ a placebo group, there is no way to isolate the exact cause-and-effect of vitamin supplements without knowing the precise vitamin content of the food the subjects are eating. In fact, most vitamin studies do not monitor the participants’ diets before or during the research period. Without accurate and sound testing methods, the findings are practically meaningless.
There are other flaws in vitamin studies in general: the subject population typically represents a fragment of the general population (such as an older population that is already diagnosed with some type of disease), or the control group is gender-based, or the allotted vitamin dosage is simply too low to yield any type of effect. Ethnic backgrounds are typically ignored, and most of the studies have failed to ensure that the supplements were taken consistently, since most reporting from study participants tends to be anecdotal. These lapses totally undermine the conclusions reached.
Pharmaceutical industry-funded studies inject hysteria and doubt into the discussion of natural health. We believe in a common-sense approach to optimal health: a program of exercise and a balanced diet—one that includes nutritional supplements to correct what is missing because of food processing, soil depletion, and less-than-ideal lifestyle choices.
Very truly yours,
Gretchen DuBeau
Executive Director
American Association for Health Freedom

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