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This Is Not Science

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The headlines were uniformly negative—“Vitamins Are Useless!” An “observational” study at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle looked at over 161,000 post-menopausal women, ages 50-79. Of the multivitamin supplements taken, none were counted if they were above tiny “recommended daily allowances,” and all reporting was done anecdotally. After eight years, researchers concluded there was no difference in disease outcome, whether from cancer or heart disease, for the 42% of women in the study taking the vitamins, versus those women who did not take a multivitamin supplement.
AAHF issued this press release to explain the news behind the recent lurid headlines:
Group Studied Not Representative of General Population;
Study Excluded Dosages Above RDA Guidelines

Today the American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF) criticized a study published by the American Medical Association in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Feb. 9, 2009), which concluded that multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, cardiovascular disease, or total mortality in postmenopausal women. “This is very, very weak science—if it can be called science at all,” said Gretchen DuBeau, executive director of AAHF.
The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) also decried the research. Dr. Robert Verkerk, executive and scientific director of ANH, said, “We were astonished to find that, with no reasons given, 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. Also, any multivitamin with fewer than ten nutrients was excluded from the ‘stress supplements’ group, and this would have included some of the highest-dose, limited-combination products that would have been most effective.”
The observational study, led by Dr. Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, monitored a group of 161,808 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 over an eight-year period. The study concluded that there was no difference in disease outcome, whether from cancer or heart disease, for the 42% of women who used multivitamin supplements as for those who did not.
ANH’s medical director, Damien Downing, a medical doctor who has practiced nutritional medicine for twenty-five years, called the research “childish naïveté.” He continued, “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.”
Gretchen DuBeau pointed out that the vitamin study’s evidence was entirely anecdotal. “The women in the study were not even given identical supplements to take.” And all reporting was left up to the subjects themselves, which is never done in a proper scientific study.”
In response to the sweeping headlines that multivitamin supplements are a waste of time, DuBeau added, “A research project based on such questionable methods—which did not even monitor whether the supplements were natural or synthetic—casts doubt on the entire study and its findings.”
An in-depth analysis of this “study designed to fail,” in the words of Dr. Robert Verkerk of the Alliance for Natural Health, pointed out the specific failures of this study:
• The lack of applicability to the general population;
• The low doses of the supplements;
• The low frequency of use;
• The forms of supplements;
• Lack of information on the duration and periods of supplement use; and
• The fact that the women were not particularly healthy to begin with.
Dr. Verkerk has summarized his comments by saying, “Let us hope that public funds will soon be used more productively in the quest for cost effective, self-administered, effective and safe preventative health care strategies.”
By way of contrast, more than 60% of Americans take supplements daily in conjunction with wise nutritional choices to help ensure their good health. Science supports this approach.

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