[ExI] Once again: Some vitamins don't help in large doses

dan_ust at yahoo.com dan_ust at yahoo.com
Tue May 19 16:40:30 UTC 2009

--- On Mon, 5/18/09, Michael LaTorra <mlatorra at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Dan,
> Your questions numbered, with my answers below:
> Q1.  How did you conclude from the article -- not
> the study, which you admit you haven't read -- that this
> was regarding "large doses"?  (The article
> mentioned "moderate doses.")
> A1. This is not the first or even the second LARGE
> study to reach the same conclusion regarding use of
> supplements, so I deem it reasonable to conclude that the
> vast majority of popular supplements do no good.

This misses the question.  I was asking about your conclusion on dosage -- specifically, that your subject line is "Some vitamins don't help in large doses."  The newspaper report mentions "moderate doses" (and, notably, does NOT mention the study group size).  I wanted to know how you concluded the study was about "large doses" when all that's mentioned in the report are "moderate doses."

Looking at the original study abstract*, this seems like a pretty small scale study -- 39 "healthy young men" -- of fairly short duration -- "Before and after a 4 week intervention of physical exercise."  This is not in my view -- and probably not in most people's view -- a "LARGE study."  (If you consider it "LARGE," then I submit almost all studies on anything must be, for you, large.  And this would lead me to ask what do you consider a small study?  One involving two or three people over the span of a few minutes?:)

> Furthermore, some of them may do harm (see links below). If
> I were desperately trying to find some flaw in this and the
> other similar studies, then I might expend some of my
> extremely limited and therefore precious time in an attempt
> to debunk the study. But I've got better things to
> do.

I'm not looking to debunk, but to understand -- here, to understand how you moved from reading the same report I read to the conclusion you made. 

> Q2.  How were you able to tell -- again, from the
> article -- exactly what was meant by the dosage levels?
>  (Aside from "moderate doses," the article
> mentions no specific dosage.  There was no remark like
> "500 mg of vitamin C daily for twelve weeks" --
> or, if there was, I completely missed it.:)
> A2. Oh puh-leeze! After you count how many angels are
> dancing on the head of your pin, write home with the answer.

That's a strange way to answer me.  When the article mentioned "moderate doses" the immediate question that popped into my mind was: What does that mean?  This is not some obscure bit of arcana, but something anyone with a modern scientific mindset would want to know: how much resulted in what effect?  Without knowing this, it's near impossible to decide what conclusion to make.  (Of course, the actual study abstract states they used "a combination of vitamin C (1000 mg/day) and vitamin E (400 IU/day)."  These are quantities should probably be considered above "moderate" if one uses the US RDA as a standard.)

> I wouldn't waste my time, for precisely the reason given
> in my first answer. If you'd like to do a little, very
> easy research -- which doesn't even require you to
> locate and read the original research in question -- please
> click on the following links and see what has already been
> learned from other studies:
Actually, it took me a few seconds to find the original research.  (I simply googled on "Michael Ristow" and "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" -- both terms which appeared in the newspaper report you cited.)  Why you didn't make this effort first remains beyond my understanding.  It can't be lack of time -- as you obviously went through some effort googling the links below.  (To be sure, I imagine this was around ten seconds of effort, but if you could spend ten seconds on that, why not ten seconds searching for the PNAS study?)

> Americans love supplements, but there is no
> evidence the pills make most of us any
> healthier
> http://www.skepdic.com/vitacon.html
> Vitamin C and Vitamin E supplements, or
> placebo, given to over 14,000 physicians showed no effect on
> the development of heart disease.
> http://www.skepticforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=54&t=10452
> High doses of vitamin E may increase risk of
> death
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3998847.stm
> Vitamins 'may raise death risk from
> cancer'
> http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/oct/01/medicineandhealth.lifeandhealth1
> Vitamin A and increased risk of bone
> fracture
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4167675.stm
> Antioxidants selenium, vitamins C, E don’t
> lower incidence of prostate cancer in two large
> trials
> http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/39225/title/Antioxidants_fail_to_prevent_prostate_cancer
> Large 8-year study finds no benefit from
> Vitamin C or E supplements in fighting cardiovascular
> disease
> http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-11-09-supplements-study_N.htm
> Large 7-year study finds
> no benefit from calcium or vitamin D supplements for
> fighting breast cancer
> http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/healthday/2008/11/11/calcium-vitamin-d-wont-prevent-breast-cancer.html
> Taking high doses of vitamin E supplements can
> increase the risk of lung cancer
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7271189.stm
> ...I could go on, as the links above do not exhaust
> the confirmatory research to support my claim. But I am
> exhausted at beating this dead horse. I have to get back to
> writing a very important feasibility report for something
> that might really do some good for a lot of people.

The above links are not to the actual research studies, but popular level articles reporting this research.  I've read a lot of media reports like this before.  (I've also read media reports touting certain supplements.  No doubt, someone could google of list of reports championing these very same supplements.  What would this prove?)  And I'm surprised that googling a few popular level articles exhausts you and that this one time where you've actually presented something other than the NY Times article (on this thread) is "beating" a "dead horse."



* http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/05/11/0903485106.abstract

I have yet to digest much less critique the full study.  Like you, I've got other things to do at this time.  But I won't make any grandiose claims.  :/


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