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Research Supports Benefits of Nutritional Supplements

Posted Feb 19 2009 4:01pm

After a few days of mulling over last week’s post on dietary supplements, I realized I didn’t include enough information to back my claims. I assumed a level of understanding that most people don’t have.

The same day of that post, The New York Times ran a story titled “Vitamin Pills: A False Hope?” that explained the traditional view of this issue. At the heart of claims by many researchers and medical professionals is the notion that food is the best source of nutrients. That claim is true, but it assumes that our food contains the nutrients we need.

In 1936, the United States Senate reviewed Document 264. The document highlighted the work of Dr. Charles Northen, who gave up his medical practice to study biochemistry and food science. Northen warned that our food didn’t contain the nutrients our bodies needed to thrive because it wasn’t receiving enough minerals from the soil.

The soil had not been allowed to rest periodically to rebuild its mineral content, a practice that dates back to Old Testament times. Mineral depletion had caused degenerative diseases to increase at an alarming rate, according to the document.

A note that accompanies the document states that Congress didn’t act to repair the damage because of the cost. We are now paying much more for that decision not to act. The cost of degenerative diseases is threatening to bankrupt individuals, businesses, and the federal government.

Today we have compounded this problem by consuming produce that, according to agricultural experts, loses much of its vitamin and mineral content as it travels from around the country and from other lands. It supplements highly processed, pre-packaged foods with little or no nutrient content. Then we spend money on synthetic vitamins in an attempt to fix the problem.

A debate is raging over whether or not synthetic vitamins are as good as their natural counterparts. If food is the best source of nutrients, natural supplements should logically produce the best results.

That could explain the differences in research results on the use of vitamin E and beta carotene. The reports I mentioned in my last post claimed that large doses of either could be harmful. Just as pharmaceuticals produce side effects, synthetic vitamins could logically do the same.

A study released in 1997 (N Engl J Med 336[17]:1216-22), stated that large doses of vitamin E slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies published in 1999 (J Natl Cancer Inst. 91[24]:2102-6) and 1996 (N Engl J Med. 334[18]:1145-9) showed no benefit or harm from beta carotene supplements for patients with cancer or heart disease. An additional study released in 1996 (Can J Cardiol 12 [10]:930-4) suggested a correlation between taking vitamins and a lower incidence of ischemic heart disease (IHD) among participants.

And vitamins alone provide little or no benefit. Man has not discovered all the components of whole foods. For this reason, whole foods combined with vitamins made from them are most likely to deliver a measurable benefit.

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From the next edition of Unmasking a Diagnosis: How to get Help for a Confusing Chronic Illness Without Filing for Bankruptcy by Jacqueline L. Jones. The current edition is available through Lulu.com. The next edition will be available this year through Amazon.com and other online book and ebook retailers.

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