Tuesday, April 10, 2007
More clarification on supplements
By Caleb Hellerman
Senior Producer
Chasing Life

Judging from viewer e-mails, our report on anti-aging supplements struck a nerve. Most who wrote were upset and argued that research does support supplements after all, suggested that CNN is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry, or both.

Dr. Frank Pinto, the supplement enthusiast we featured, wrote to say that he was disappointed. "Like many other issues in medicine, further study is warranted. Another reason for taking supplements is to ensure adequate amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that cannot be adequately obtained from the diet."

That's certainly true. In fact, Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, says just 3 percent of Americans follow government dietary guidelines.

Our original headline should have been more specific. Our current headline better reflects the story's focus on anti-aging supplements. As you pointed out, there are well-supported examples of supplements' effectiveness that have nothing to do with aging. Here are two: Folic acid taken by pregnant women has been shown to sharply decrease birth defects, and the National Institutes of Health recommends additional selenium for many people with severe gastrointestinal illness.

It's also true that the book on anti-aging supplements isn't closed. Not just Andrew Weil but our e-mailers pointed out studies showing heart benefits from Omega-3 fish oil supplements (our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes one daily) and a potentially lower cancer risk from Vitamin D.

But mainstream science moves slowly. Neither the American Cancer Society nor the National Institute on Aging recommends supplements for the general population, and the American Heart Association "does not recommend using vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements to treat or prevent heart disease and stroke," according to its Web site.

This won't be the last word on supplements at CNN - I guarantee it.
What about this?

Let me know what you think in 2075.
As far as I am concerned, CNN Health has lost all credibility with me because of this news item. I won't waste my time reading CNN Health in the future.
Personally, I wish that the medical establishment would get its act together w.r.t. supplements.Currently, they seem to change their recommendations arbitrarily. For instance, about five years ago my internist noted a slightly elevated homocysteine level, and advised me to take folic acid. I asked whether the reduction in homocysteine really indicated a reduction in risk, or if it was just a parallel, unrelated event, and he said "Who knows? The stuff is harmless". Two years later, the advice was "stop the folic acid, it's correlated with an increased risk of heart attack". Meanwhile, my S.O.'s doc has advised her to take the stuff, but to drop the baby aspirin (which her three previous docs advised). Who's confused, them or us? Or all?
I was disappointed with the article. I'm afraid that the article will be counter-productive in that people will read it and stop taking all supplements causing possible harm. I feel that reporting of this nature can be irresponsible. Many OTC supplements have been proven effective and although the best sources of nutrients are from whole foods, if someone is missing out on a particular nutrient (they hate to eat fish for example) then supplementation is the next best thing.
I take supplements daily and I appreciate hearing from doctors that try to help us live longer. thank You
A friend of mine is a nutritionist and has told me in the past the vitamin supplements are effective when you take them in the right combinations, such as vitamin C should be taken with calicum because the two help eachother metabolize. Otherwise, the supplements can pass through your system without even being absorbed. My friend has flawless skin and never gets sick, so maybe there is something to her vitamin regimine.

Is it possible that the few studies examining the benefits of vitamin supplements are flawed because they examine the supplements taken alone or not in the correct combinations? More research is definitely needed.
As has been proven throughout the ages, the authorities of the day don't always know everything.

I can tell for fact that there are anti-aging supplements out there that work. When you really do the research, you can see that Americans are woefully behind on what supplements can slow the degenerative effects of aging. It's why other countries have such higher life-spans than we do.

In her eighties, my grandmother had horrible arthritis that knarled her hands and after much research and prodding by me, it was Omega 3 Fish Oil that removed ALL symptoms of her arthritis for the last ten years of her life. Her hands and skin looked much younger and the swelling went away entirely within three months of taking the recommended dosage.

I take fish oil because it keeps mood stable, (i'm prone to depression but have had no problem with it for years, which in part I attribute to Omega 3s.) Omega 3s reduces inflammation (a major source of age related problems such as heart disease and for just about every one else's problems as well), and I also give it to my 3 year old daughter as it helps with brain development, (also helping her calmness immensely.) Britain has begun giving Omega 3s to school children across the country to prevent ADD and it has raised test scores.

Why do Japanese live so long? I'd bet it was in large part to the Omega 3s they get from eating so much fish.

I also take Ginko Bilboba and cannot recommend it highly enough. Here in the States it's touted for memory improvement, and it may have some benefit for that as the improved circulation to your brain does make for better concentration and more oxygen uptake, but it's also great for improving circulation in diabetics and preventing macular degeneration, and improves glycocis, which is the uptake of sugars into insulin. Think about it and use common sense...if you have better circulation to your brain, you probably have it to the rest of you too and your whole body is benefiting.

The proof in ginko is that across Europe its prescribed for a variety of different things depending on what country you're in. I believe it's French doctors that prescribe it for tinnitus, (ringing in the ears caused by poor circulation) Germany uses it for numbness in hands and feet. The Soviets back in the day gave it to the workers that cleaned up radiation at Chernobyl and found a year later that there was no cancer causing chromosome damage to those given it, while the rest that hadn't taken it had signifigant damage and many developed cancer later. Also, interestingly, the workers that stopped taking it after a year had chromosome damage the year after that although the ones that continued supplementing longer never developed it.

Ginko is also great for lessening early stage Alzhiemers because it somehow prevents plaque build up on the brain. Oh, and did I mention that much like asprin, Ginko can also work as sunscreen, (something most people don't know) protecting against UV rays to a certain extent?

The only thing is, don't take Ginko if you're on blood thinners, as it does the same thing as asprin and other blood thinners and taking both may not be wise without consulting your doctor.

In China, there's a few thousand year history of using herbs to treat illness. The problem with the west is that we localize our health problems, trying only to fix the stiff knee with an injection when in fact it's lack of lubrication via Omega 3s throughout the body that's causing the knee problem and a dozen others to come. The truth is, your health problems are usually related to a larger issue and you need to take care of the whole package.

If we wait for Western science to confirm everything and realize a more synergistic approach to medicine is needed, we'll all be alot less healthy than if we just read for ourselves.

We're like babes in the woods when it comes to learning what nature can provide for us. Scientists tend to feel more confident in their own creations than what has always existed and that tends to lead to trouble. Just ask Galileo.

My recommendation, do the research yourself with this wonderful tool we have called the internet. Type Omega 3 or Ginko or whatever herb you're looking into for anti-aging into a search engine and start reading all various points of view. That's what I did, and it's made me a lot healthier for it.

Los Angeles
I�m 44 and have been taking supplements on a consistent basis since I was in my 20s. I rarely get sick, am symptom free from a bout with ulcerative colitis over 7 years ago (the doctors said the condition was chronic), and skip the flu shot every winter season without giving it a passing thought. Friends and family say I look 10 years younger than my age. A coincidence or lucky genes? Perhaps. But there�s no doubt thousands of Americans who follow the same regime of supplementation that I do have had even more spectacular results. I think I speak for them when I say for us there�s certainly been enough research behind the benefits of supplementation � besides decades of our own personal experience with vitamins, herbs, and minerals � to lend validity to the path we've chosen.
You know what I think. I think doctors just keep spouting crap about how vitamines are no good aren't regulated and don't work. I take vitamines DAILY 1000IU of Vitamin E, 600Miligrams of Vitamine C a whole multi and 1.2grams of coral calcium and I haven't been sick in over 5, yes 5YEARS. So keep your vitamines are bad for you shit to yourselves, cause I am not long giving two shits about what is posted here.
Supplements and herbs are the ultimate tech we have been using for our health, they work perfectly (most of them, specially the ones supported by blind placebo studies or cell studies).

Some doctors and the pharmaceutical companies behind them are upset, they should move on, like Bayer and sell herbs and supplements and doctors should heal with them. For us, pharmaceutical drugs are out, we never use them. The last one I used was Vioxx, right before the scandal. And yes, I got chest pain from it.

My wife had initial symptoms of breast cancer, we went to the doctor (5th one), he was very upset when we suggested suplements, vitamins and herbs. He said "that is the internet's fault, I will kill the one who invented it!"
Hi Matt,
I'm really up in the air about supplementation. It's possible to get enough of every vitamin and mineral that we need by having the proper diet, however, most people are chronically deficient in many areas. Therefore, theoretically, they should benefit from the vitamin pills.

Unfortunately, no one knows how to make "the perfect vitamin". Many people are also uniformed on what to take, how much to take, and in what combination. They'll take too much, usually, and cause some damage without knowing it. Also, our body just does not absorb vitamin pills very well- it's designed to get what we need from food!

It would be a terrific idea if CNN did a larger, longer, more in depth program with Dr. Gupta on how to be healthy. I'm aware, of course, of the many segments that he does (and I watch all of them, including the Saturday morning show). However, there are massive amounts of mis-information out there. Perhaps, instead of "don't do this", you could do a show on "this is what you SHOULD do". Many people aren't aware of how to be healthy or they think it's too difficult. Dr. Gupta could show them how! I'd watch :)
Dr. Gupta said that milk might be bad for you because 'humans are the only species that drinks milk from another species.' That was pretty silly - Humans are the only species that captures other species and raises them for food! We are also the only species that wears the pelts of other species -- does that make it bad to wear clothes!
I take supplements everyday, AND eat fruits and vegetables, and try and limit my "bad" fat and salt intake.

My doctor (infact two doctors) have made sure I take at minimum a daily combined supplement. My doctor also told me to take FOLATE to lower my homosystene levels. And a high B vitamin regimen for my heart health. Heart issues run in my family. So yes, I eat right (mostly - slip up now and then), excercise everyday, and am working on lowering my stress levels.

So please, don't just blanketly say supplements aren't worth it. The medical and pharmacuetical industry don't want us to know that many of their drug ideas come from plant and natural sources. Vitamins and supplements offer no MONEY for the drug manufacturers, so they won't back them.

Infact, there was an article on (I think CNN) where the government is giving the soldiers 1000 MG of QUERCETIN a day to boost their immune systems and increase their brain function. I couldn't believe the government was actually endorsing this - but I'm glad.

Yes, take your vitamins. Like my mom always told me to.
Regarding your comment:
"But mainstream science moves slowly. Neither the American Cancer Society nor the National Institute on Aging recommends supplements for the general population, and the American Heart Association "does not recommend using vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements to treat or prevent heart disease and stroke," according to its Web site. "

I take issue with whether the ACS and AHA represent science on questions of nutrition in any accurate way.

Take for example this ACS article. It basically tells the reader that Vitamin D prevents colon cancer and then warns the reader off taking supplements (they're supposedly too toxic). It doesn't take much to read between the lines and see that they're encouraging us to wait for vitamin d analogues. Sunshine isn't even mentioned.

Everyone should get tested for Vitamin D level and aim for 45-50ng/ml or 115-128nmol/L--lifeguard summertime level.

Also, check out this site for cutting edge Vitamin D research.
To even suggest that you can get your optimal amount of all minerals from diet alone is an assumption that lacks knowledge in this area. Add to that, the fact that our soil is getting more depleted as millions of tons of corn, soybeans and potatoes are coming out of our farmlands around the world with very little concentration on any minerals that don't economically increase the crop's yield. Find a list of the USDA database evidence of nutrient losses in the past few decades as well as some of the calls for our government to RAISE the RDA for several nutrients by many doctors both Medical doctors as well as Naturopaths. That information is here: http://journals.aol.com/ninetyplus4life/Capacity

As for stating how little study there is in this area, I laugh at that through gritted teeth. Take selenium for instance. Anyone who's seen the study on selenium by Doctor Larry Clark- a randomized double blind study- knows that this garbage about how little evidence there is on supplements and their ''potential'' benefits is just propaganda. When you look at all the pharmaceutical company commercials on every channel for Cymbalta and Lipitor it makes perfect sense that you're not going to get the information you're entitled to in regards to nutrition because nutrition is the basis for health, not the kind of scientifically ''proven'' health you may achieve with statin drugs and of course the depression MEDS that might make you suicidal, homicidal and generally kind of BLUE. Most mainstream supplement talk either gives you something negative or first tells you of the benefit, then tells you why you shouldn't rush into reaping those benefits just yet. Crafty, but clearly we're not all fooled.

~ J. D. Shafer - researcher and author of the 90+ newsletter and blog
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