Specifically the article that has raised concerns is: “Dietary Supplements and Mortality Rate in Older Women,” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011, Volume 171(18):1625-1633. This month’s newsletter is intended to dispel concerns raised by the media’s distortion of this study’s findings.
The study was an analysis of data received from 38,772 postmenopausal women. The data came from self-administered questionnaires filled out in 1986, 1997 and 2004. The study inquired about supplemental intake and other lifestyle habits, but did not inquire as to how much of each nutrient was ingested, nor the chemical form of supplements (eg chealtors, binders, artificial additives, heavy metal presence) or quality of the supplements.
While the women were asked if they took a multivitamin, they were not told what constituted a multivitamin, and the questionnaires did not inquire about strength or content. No attempt was made to verify the accuracy of participant answers, nor were they asked why they were taking the supplements. The study did indicate that more and more participants began taking supplements as they aged, a factor that would skew any conclusive findings.
Results of the study showed a slightly higher risk of death from all causes associated with the use of multivitamins, iron and copper. "We saw an increased risk of total mortality, but we don't really know what the reason is," said lead author Jaakko Mursu, of the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Minnesota.
Aside from the above concerns, there are other flaws in the study when it comes to interpreting the findings and drawing conclusions. When people learn that they have a heart problem, cancer or other debilitating disease, they will often go out and purchase supplements. In this scenario, if a person dies from a heart attack and they were taking supplements, their death would be associated with the intake of dietary supplements. From this, one could not conclude that the supplements played a role in their death; however, that is what the media has done.
This type of study is called a retrospective study, meaning the researchers reviewed data from the past and presented their findings. To make a conclusive statement as to the relationship of vitamin intake and death, a clinical trial would need to be done. A clinical trial is a controlled experiment where participants would receive the same vitamin mix or placebo and then followed to observe for the outcome and any factors that might contribute to the outcome.
According to study findings from the Archives of Internal Medicine there can be no conclusion made that would suggest a link between vitamin intake and increased risk of death. However, a link was made by the media, and readers can expect to see more and more disparaging articles from mainstream publications in an attempt to keep them confused, dependent and hostage to synthetic toxic pharmaceuticals.
This is not to say that vitamins and minerals are benign and can be taken without consequence. Many vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin A, B6, iron, zinc and selenium can cause serious side effects if taken indiscriminately. Unnecessary intake of iron, especially in postmenopausal women, definitely will increase risk of cardiovascular disease.
Long term supplement intake should be done with the guidance of a licensed Naturopathic Doctor or other qualified individual using high quality supplements from reliable manufactures for appropriate conditions at appropriate doses. When taken in this way, supplements will promote, enhance, support and maintain overall health and well-being.
I hope you have enjoyed or at least found informative, this month’s newsletter. As always questions and comments are welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND
For more on this theme please see Dr. Dunn’s past newsletters including:
In the News, Bad PR for Natural Medicine, Natural Medicine an Endangered Resource, Preserving Natural Medicine, and Supplements: Complete Life