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What Were the Results of Giving Vitamin C and Vitamin E to Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer?

Over the past few years, there have been a series of research reports critical of vitamins. Many of them were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and received widespread publicity. What these reports have had in common is a seriously flawed methodology. In fact, sometimes the methodology has been so flawed that one can only guess at the thinking—and even the motives—of the authors.
This story is about another such study. The Physicians’ Health Study II (PHSII) was funded by NIH and an investigator-initiated grant from BASF Corp., with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and DSM Nutritional Products, Inc. (formerly Roche Vitamins) providing study agents and packaging. The study sought to address the unresolved issue of using vitamins for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other conditions like aging-related vision disease and memory loss. PHSII, which began in 1997 and has just been concluded, is openly critical of the use of nutrients—in this case, vitamin C and vitamin E—to prevent heart disease and cancer.
Further examination, however, reveals PHSII to be another case of a study where a failed methodology led to a faulty conclusion. We absolutely need serious studies of vitamins. But such studies are very expensive. It is a shame to waste money by setting them up from the start so they are guaranteed to fail.
At the same time, other studies conclude that taking supplemental vitamins and minerals is good preventive medicine. Experts from prestigious academic institutions—Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., from Tufts University; Lester Packer, Ph.D., and Bruce Ames, Ph.D., from UC Berkley; and Walter Willett, M.D., M.P.H., from Harvard, just to name a few—openly discuss their own use of supplements. Americans overwhelmingly take supplements and indicate they are satisfied with the resulting benefits for their health. Such testimony contradicts PHSII’s assertion that nutrients fail to prevent heart disease and cancer.

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One thought on “What Were the Results of Giving Vitamin C and Vitamin E to Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer?

  • Anne Hargis

    Interesting! My father, who died in 2015 at 97 years old, was a participant in The Physicians’ Health Study I & II. Obviously being a double blind study, we have no idea whether he was taking placebo or the actual meds (more than 100% of the RDA) of one of 16 possible combinations of vitamin C (500 mg SYNTHETIC ascorbic acid), vitamin E (400 IU of SYNTHETIC alpha-tocopherol), beta-carotene (50 mg Lurotin), a multivitamin (Centrum Silver).
    He had a heart attack and quad bypass in 1986 with NO risk factors. Not sure when he had the prostate CA. Had many skin cancers on his head with MOSE revisions, hx of diverticulitis, but don’t believe he ever had any polyps removed. Cataracts were removed late in his 80s and started with macular degeneration at 90. I immediately put him on Preserve Mac Forte (actually 1/2 dosage) and when he went back for his next check, the MD was GONE and never returned.. His cognition, always excellent, was unchanged until just before his death (at home).
    My take-away is that having no idea what he was taking prevented me from using Natural vitamins, homeopathics, and other natural treatments/preventatives that I could have tried. He did become receptive to natural treatments in his later years and I believe that is what kept him alive and active until the end.

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