Tuesday, April 10, 2007
More clarification on supplements
By Caleb Hellerman
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.
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