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Vitamin Studies Dispute Common Beliefs
Posted: 10 November 2008 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Taking vitamins won’t prevent heart disease, studies say

“Vitamins C and E do nothing to prevent heart disease in men, one of the largest and longest studies of these supplements has found. Vitamin E even appeared to raise the risk of bleeding strokes, a danger seen in at least one earlier study.

Besides questioning whether vitamins help, “we have to worry about potential harm,” said Barbara Howard, a nutrition scientist at MedStar Research Institute of Hyattsville, Maryland.

...As for vitamin C, some research suggests it may aid cancer, not fight it. A previous study in women at high risk of heart problems found it did not prevent heart attacks.”

Interesting findings.

Personally, I haven’t taken a vitamin since I was last expecting a baby, several years ago. Now that we’re planning another, my physician has bugged me to start taking a multi-vitamin for the folic acid. That’s about the extent of my vitamin usage.

I have family members who are “nuts for vitamins” and I often wonder if they’re doing more harm than good. My brother and sister, both marathon runners, probably each keep their local GNC franchise in business. They are like mad scientists at 5:00 a.m., mixing vitamin powders in with different protein powders and berries before each morning training run. Last Christmas, I bought them both institutional-quality blenders for their supplement shakes and put big red bows on them. I wonder if they will both have functioning kidneys 10 years from now?

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Posted: 10 November 2008 10:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I would absolutely take folic acid were I to have another child. It has been shown to conclusively reduce the incidence of neural tube defects. Other than that, I absolutely do not believe in vitamins. If I want vitamin C, I eat broccoli or an orange, it tastes better and the fiber is good for me. Also, any vitamin C pill probably doesn’t even begin to cover the entire complement of the vitamin complex. Eat a varied diet, and if you are otherwise healthy, you’ll so okay. The harms of artificially inflating the amount of the different vitamins people ingest are becoming apparent.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t think I have ever taken a vitamin, but I find I better keep that to myself. All of my colleagues’ desks are decorated with all kinds of different bottles with vitamins—and herbal teas, oh, don’t forget the herbal teas!— and whenever I get sick (with the usual cold) I get blamed for not taking care of myself as I don’t take vitamins.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I don’t take vitamins (and I never took), but for a pregnant woman (or soon to be) the folic acid is a good complement that should not be avoided without a good reason.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I actually saw a study showing vitamin A increases the risk of lung cancer for smokers by about 50%.

I don’t think taking a normal multivitamin is going to hurt them, and may have some benefit if they do a lot of running because running depletes nutrients. If they are taking many different vitamins in higher dosages it may be a different story.

[ Edited: 11 November 2008 09:14 AM by Some Guy ]
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Posted: 11 November 2008 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There’s no doubt that vitamins are essential. Without vitamin C ancient sailors used to develop scurvy on long voyages. Become deficient in B12 and you develop all the complications of pernicious anemia. Our bodies clearly need these vitamins. The debate is over how much. There is pretty good evidence that the RDA amounts are accurate for most vitamins if one wishes to avoid the complications of vitamin deficiencies.

The real debate is whether large amounts, mega doses of vitamins, can prevent other diseases that are either part of the aging process, or the result of our modern lifestyles. This is where the data gets messy. There have been good double blind studies published on some of these issues. As asanta alluded to above, there is significant evidence that folic acid taken by a pregnant women can reduce the risk that her baby will be born with a spinal cord defect. Other studies have had surprising results. A study done several years ago to see if “antioxidant vitamins” ( in this case vitamin A) could reduce the risk of lung cancer in smokers had to be stopped early because the subjects taking vitamin A actually had an increased rate of lung cancer.

Unfortunately most of the claims concerning vitamins are bogus, either based on anecdotal reports, wishful thinking, or intentional fraud. Its a shame because there might be some real benefits if we were to take larger amounts of some of these vitamins. However, because of the woeful lack of science literacy today, the average person ( Joe Sixpack?) has no way of separating the wheat from the chaff and is left to rely on claims from family, friends, and fraudulent infomercials.

Like PT Barnum said “There’s a sucker born every minute”. It seems the Vitamin industry has learned that lesson well.

[ Edited: 11 November 2008 02:31 PM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 11 November 2008 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Yes, I’m taking with the multi-vitamin for folic acid at my doctor’s recommendation, to decrease the risk of birth defects. She said to start taking it well in advance of pregnancy, continue it all the way through, and only stop when I’m finished nursing. I do whatever she says - she’s a great doctor.

Oh, and I forgot about the GIANT IRON PILLS I had to take last pregnancy - how could I forget! I became anemic and the pills were as big as grapes. (At least in my memory!) I will ask if they have a liquid this time around - ha ha. (It was funny, we’d been planning on having our second child soon, but I keep putting it off “just six more months” every six months… finally I went for my appointment and the doctor, she says to me, “Tick-tock! Tick-tock! You’re not in your 20’s anymore!”)

So I suppose with the vitamins, my feeling is that I’m only taking them when prescribed by my doctor, and this is the way it should be. People should not read a magazine that says “Take Vitamin E to prevent heart disease!” and run out and load up on massive doses of Vitamin E. Unfortunately some people think “more is better” when that is often dangerous.

Actually, my son drinks those “PediaSure” nutritional/vitamin drinks a couple times a week. My pediatrician thought it was a good idea since he is a picky eater, doesn’t take chewable vitamins (he doesn’t like “Flintstones Vitamins”) and is not a fan of cow’s milk. (My mother, when visiting, tried giving him a big glass of cow’s milk. Big mistake. He farted loudly for hours.) Sometimes I mix half vanilla flavor PediaSure and half vanilla soymilk, and give it to him like a cold milkshake/treat.

But the PediaSure is just so processed, I often wonder if I could make some kind of healthy “smoothie” for him that is vanilla and tasty, and full of vitamins, and not so processed. Then again, is “processed” bad? Or am I just reading into that “all natural hype” which I usually don’t fall for?

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Posted: 11 November 2008 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Be very careful with your iron and the multi vits you give your child. It is very easy for a small child to get an iron overdose, it is very toxic to small children (I don’t remember how many it will take to make a small child very ill, but it is the size of a small snack for him). Iron is one of the most common childhood overdoses, and can kill. His multivits should be treated as if it were the medication it is and kept locked up.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of pediasure for children, I think they are treating a nonexistent problem. As a mother of the former pickiest child in the world, it is childhood obesity that is the problem, not childhood skinniness. A child will normally eat the nutrients they need as long as they are presented with a variety of foods and see their parents eat a good variety. Many times my son would only eat an apple or some rice for dinner. He continues to be a picky eater, but he is very healthy at 30, and weighs a healthy 170lbs. As a child his weight was often in the 25th percentile with a 50th percentile weight. The family joke is that he would have been as tall as his brother had he not been such a picky eater. He is 6’2”, his brother is 6’5”! His brother was usually off the chart for height, but in the 30th to 50th on weight.

  Type II diabetes has been a growing problem in our country.The children affected are getting younger and younger. When we got our first adolescent with type II diabetes in the early 90s, we were in disbelief, now it is commonplace. I have never seen a skinny kid with type II diabetes.  Pediasure contains 1 kcal per ml!, that is VERY calorie dense. I blame the manufacturers for marketing it to a niche to make more money by frightening parents into thinking children are not getting the nutrients they need. It is a money making ploy. In the hospital, we only give pediasure to children who cannot eat, or are devastated with a wasting disease where they need the calorie dense foods. We NEVER give pediasure to ANY child who can eat ‘regular’ food.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 08:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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asanta - 11 November 2008 05:23 PM

Many times my son would only eat an apple or some rice for dinner.

Hooray - I’m not the only one! Tonight my son had an apple and a whole wheat tortilla (plain!) for dinner. He is so picky. My husband and I had Mexican take out, and he wanted nothing to do with our veggie burritos.

The pediatrician wanted me to give him one PediaSure per day, but I’ve been mixing it 50/50 with soy milk and only giving it to him every couple of days. It’s so syrupy, I had to cut it - it was gross. She was concerned about his calcium and protein, because he doesn’t drink cow’s milk, and rarely eats meat, except for the occasional piece of chicken. 

He’s in the 50th percentile for weight, and average height. He’s really not too skinny, just a touch. He won’t eat a single veggie, not even with butter. I’ve compromised with fruit - he’ll eat apples, bananas, grapes. He gets whole wheat and whole grain pasta and bread - never refined flour. I’m sure he’ll be OK without the supplement. But I felt kind of guilty when she suggested buying it. But like I said, the syrupy stuff kind of bugged me so I cut it with soy milk and didn’t give it to him as often as recommended.

And now this article is out, and I’m not sure what to make of it: Doctors Double Vitamin D for Kids. Is it too soon to listen to this, or is this a pretty solid recommendation? I think he plays in the sun long enough get his Vitamin D. They’re on the playground every day, even in winter unless it’s an actual snowstorm.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 09:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Look to see where else he can get calcium. Offer cheese, (most kids like the string cheese) beans, eggs, dark green veggies, yogurt,and nuts.  Your doctor should have referred you to a registered dietitian for help with your son’s diet, which actually doesn’t sound too bad, instead of suggesting pediasure. S/he could give you some REAL help and suggestions, and help you evaluate the nutrients your son is getting.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 09:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Jules - 11 November 2008 08:47 PM

And now this article is out, and I’m not sure what to make of it: Doctors Double Vitamin D for Kids. Is it too soon to listen to this, or is this a pretty solid recommendation? I think he plays in the sun long enough get his Vitamin D. They’re on the playground every day, even in winter unless it’s an actual snowstorm.

The best way to fight rickets is to put him in the sun (but use common sense, no sunburns please) to play. Running around also builds strong bones. Kids eat to much in the way of soda these days, some idiot talked about fortifying sodas with calcium. It really sounds like your son is a normal picky eater. I would worry more if he were over weight than underweight. What was your weight like as a child, and what about his father? These growth patterns usually are genetically determined. For your family, it is probably the norm. A session with a Registered Dietitian could give you guidance as to his Vitamin D intake.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 09:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It’s always good to have a nurse on call, thanks Asanta!  cheese

He does eat hard boiled eggs a couple days a week. And he will eat whole wheat pizza with cheese. The more I think about it, the less I’m buying into the worry about his protein and calcium. He likes the fresh vanilla soymilk from Trader Joe’s, too.

Perhaps the pediatrician was just recommending the supplement as a “safety net.” Or perhaps I sounded over-concerned about his diet when I brought up his picky eating, and she was trying to ease my worries? She questioned me rather militantly on every aspect of his diet when I said he was a picky eater. I may have sounded horribly guilty while she went down the list of foods he should be eating and I kept answering “Milk? No. Veggies? No. Lean meat? He’ll only eat chicken if I tell him it died of natural causes.”

Regarding the Vitamin D article, I found the article interesting but would not buy a supplement for the exact same reasons stated in the article in the first post - they may find, five years from now, that too much of the vitamin is very bad for a child.

We do an appropriate balance of time in the sun, adding sunscreen and a baseball cap in spring/summer if he’s going to be longer than 10 minutes or so. I had read about (prior to the Vitamin D article) a resurgence in rickets due to parents over-protecting their kids from the sunlight. We do need sunlight! It’s good for us. We just don’t need to roast in it until cooked.

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Posted: 11 November 2008 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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You’re welcome, if you have any more diet questions (although I hate to belabor the point) talk to a Registered Dietitian. Your doctor can recommend one, it should be covered by your insurance and you shouldn’t need more than one visit. Doctors don’t get much in the way of nutritional training. The RD (I believe) is a Masters Degree with certification,with all emphasis on nutrition.

When my sons were young, their pediatrician insisted that I see one, he was so worried about my sons’ weight(actually lack thereof). In fact he hounded me mercilessly, although I didn’t think there was a problem. The RD sent the doctor a scathing message after evaluating my sons and their diets! LOL His assessment, in a capsule, was that tall skinny parents have tall skinny kids, and to stop wasting his time! smile

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Posted: 12 November 2008 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Speaking of Vitamin D and the new recommendation to double the dose for children, I saw this article today.

Can Vitamin D Protect Against Breast Cancer?

“It was a powerful idea, and there was some intriguing early evidence suggesting that something as simple as popping vitamin D might hold off the second biggest cancer killer among American women — breast cancer. So researchers were expecting to see positive results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), the first controlled trial of the effects of vitamin D on breast cancer.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Reporting in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the study authors announce that taking vitamin D supplements does not affect breast cancer rates. Women who took 400 IU of vitamin D daily had the same rates of breast cancer as those not taking the supplements, after a seven-year period.”

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Posted: 12 November 2008 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I certainly am not going to argue against the views of two of my favorite people, Asanta and Jules, however as a 78 year old chemist, I believe in the old duPont motto, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”  Although my gastro-intestinal system still functions very well, a number of studies show that as one gets older, the small intestines lose some of their ability to transport nutrients into the body.  As such, I’ll continue taking my (many) supplements.  LOL

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Posted: 12 November 2008 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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As I am learning in my OB course that people should be getting vitamins from food sources and not from supplements.  Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are well stored in the body, aren’t typically lost, and excessive amounts could cause harm (eg. Vit A causing congenital malformations in infants in mothers who took excessive amounts).  Water vitamins (folic acid, B6, and C) however, are quickly lost and must be replaced constantly.  According to the Institute of Medicine only a supplemental dose of 30mg per day dose of iron is needed in a healthy pregnant woman who is eating a well balanced diet.

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