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

November 25, 2008
Category: Uncategorized

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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