So it looks like vitamins don't help us and may actually hasten our demise. Or at least that's the message the Wall Street Journal is wanting us to take away from recent research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (article found here), titling their article, "Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?"
Well, in answer to their question, I hope not. Let me lay out this recent research publication, what it shows, and what it doesn't.
Highlights of the publication are that it was an epidemiological study, gathering self-reported data from tens of thousands of elderly white women over 18 years.
When controlling for (data analysis attempting to factor in differences of) age, height, education, a few chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, hormone replacement), activity level and smokers, it found these affects on the hazard ratio (increase risk of death):
But wait just a minute before you throw out all those vitamins and supplements out of the medicine cabinet (well, maybe the dusty ones can go).
Here's a few points to consider when evaluating how to use journal publications like this when making health care considerations:
And this makes sense to me. I don't expect any given supplement to decrease mortality rates across tens of thousands of people. I do, however, expect them to work for most people when specifically indicated (B6 for nerve and adrenal support, or magnesium for vasodilation and muscle relaxation).
So before you give up on supplements proving themselves in the scientific literature, make sure you're looking in the right places. NDNR and Natural Standard both offer plentiful information on vitamin, mineral and herbal supplementation with scientific backing.
For those interested in positive effects found of supplementation of the mid-aged and elderly as reported by NIH, please check out the articles here and here. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "modest" supplementation of middle-aged women slowed the aging process. You can find that article here.
In general, I hope that those of you interested in your health are taking supplements for well-indicated reasons from knowledgeable sources, although the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids was beneficial for anyone (the article here called it a "metabolic tune-up").
The issue as to supplements' efficacy and beneficence will not be resolved with a single publication. I anticipate following the research-lead discourse for some tim. Please let me know if you'd like more information about specific supplements and research outcomes. Thank you for reading.
New research from the journal Epidemiology (found here), shows that women not taking a prenatal vitamin around and during pregnancy are twice as likely to have a child with autism compared to those taking prenatal vitamins.
The surprising thing to me in this research is the comparison of effectiveness in timing of the vitamin. Differences in rates of autistic children born (as diagnosed when five-year olds) was only significantly less in those mothers taking the prenatals during the first month of pregnancy.
By the second month, there was no difference in autism between the groups. So by the time many mothers find out they are pregnant, particular if the pregnancy was not planned, taking a prenatal vitamin is not effective in this regard- though it may be helpful in covering other nutritional needs during this time.
As another aspect of this research project, they studied two genetic mutations which have been previously correlated with the development of autism: MTHFR and COMT. Among mothers positive for one of these variants who did not take a prenatal vitamin, their rates for having an autistic child were 4.5 and 7 times the background (normal population) levels, respectively.
On an academic note, the last doctor who I observed in private practice is a self-taught enthusiast of using neurotransmitter and biochemistry knowledge in her clinical practice. She often tests for and uses targeted nutritional supplementation for women with MTHFR gene variants as it is disproportionately higher in women. Autism is one issue correlated with this gene defect; others are depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease and some neurological diseases.
Genetic variants are not usually life sentences, but under the influence of a whole host of environmental influences. The realm of genetics if vastly fascinating to me, so please write with any medical genetics questions and I will look into writing up a little something on it. Thank you for reading!