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Vitamin Overdose Concerns and AJCN Oct, 2011

Media oversimplify to report possible hazards of taking vitamin E, multivitamin, and fish oil. However, there are serious flaws in how each article was interpreted, getting your attention, causing you stress, and not revealing details to allow you to make an informed decision. As my research poster 162 points out, even nutrition and medical experts differ widely on what supplements they actually use themselves.

The first is a public radio report, based on a JAMA article, that taking vitamin E supplements increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. In isolation, such a report could cause a lot of stress. However, here are the details. Among 34,887 men over 50 followed for up to 12 years, there were 147 in the vitamin E group vs. 113 in the control group. In the group that took vitamin E and selenium, there were only 118 cases. They did not mention many known benefits of supplemental vit. E like making flu vaccines substantially more effective. About 50% of people over 60 take vitamin E supplements.

The second media report states that multivitamin users are more likely to die. A study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found multivitamins, and iron and copper supplements, may increase mortality rates in older women, has been slammed by industry groups. The increased risk was only about 2%, and there was no adjustment for factors such as that when people become seriously ill they are much more likely to take a multivitamin. Bruce Ames argues persuasively that if you do not eat an excellent diet, taking a multivitamin/mineral without iron is a good safety net to prevent a variety of longterm consequences from moderate, short term deficiencies.

The third is a report in Cancer Research that has been interpreted in the media to show that taking fish oil supplements may interfere with cancer chemotherapy. In the actual article, they report that platinum added to stem cells in petri plates generate a tiny amount of fatty acids that vaguely resemble fish oil lipids. However, these quantities could be made even if one were not taking fish oil, which prevents inflammation where it is unnecessary and is important for a healthy brain. For fish oil, should you have cancer, definitely speak with a knowledgeable expert regarding your individual treatment.

In conclusion, while the media really wants your attention, they do that by giving brief alarming details that often alarm and cause you to make decisions that will increase your risk of harm.

AJCN Oct, 2011 - Details

1. A plea for vitamin D. - Numerous conditions including breast cancer occur with increased prevalence in those who experience an early age of menarche in many studies; for example, menarche at the age of <12 y increases the risk by ∼50% compared with girls who reach menarche at age 16 y. Genetic factors play a major role in determining the age of menarche. Vitamin D deficiency correlates with a decreased age of menarche. Vitamin D deficiency is a prevalent condition in children and adolescents in the United States; it is found in sunny climates such as Las Vegas and Sacramento. Numerous adverse health conditions are postulated to relate to vitamin D deficiency in addition to rickets and decreased bone mass. Among those garnering recent interest is an increased prevalence of insulin resistance in vitamin D–deficient individuals, leading to greater risk of many manifestations of the metabolic syndrome.

2. Folate consumption and risk of cancer. - Over the past ∼25 years, a body of quite compelling evidence has accrued that indicates that habitually low consumption of folate leads to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. But does excess folate increase the risk of cancer? ∼4.8–5.2% of US adults aged 51–70 y (ie, an age group that is likely to harbor indolent precancerous lesions of the colon and prostate) consume >1000 μg folic acid each day (13), which is the upper limit of safety cited by the Institute of Medicine and the range in which the paradoxical cancer-promoting effect is hypothesized to occur. This translates into ∼2.6 million Americans in this age stratum alone (14) who regularly consume an excessively high amount of folic acid. It is unclear whether excess folate increases cancer risk, but it is conclusively known that consuming adequate amounts of folate (assessed as either dietary or total folate intake) compared with a low amount of the vitamin is associated with a substantial decrease in the risk of colorectal cancer.

3. 2g Fish oil daily reduced triacylglycerides (that cause bad cholesterol) by 16.5%.

4. Waistline inversely related to bone mineral density.

5. Despite adequate folate, 5% of Canadians are deficient in vitamin B12, causing anemia and mental challenges.

6. Red meat consumption increases risk of diabetes (T2D)- We estimated that substitutions of one serving of nuts, low-fat dairy, and whole grains per day for one serving of red meat per day were associated with a 16–35% lower risk of T2D.

7. Vitamin D intake lowers risk of depression in post-menopausal women.

8. Coffee intake is not associated with cardiovascular disease or long-term blood pressure.

9. The shortest way to reach nutritional goals is to adopt Mediterranean food choices.

10. 1g calcium/400iu vitamin D decreases risk of total, breast, and colorectal cancer14-20%.

- Roc, Nutrition Investigator

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“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people” -Chinese Proverb

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