A trip to a grocery or health food store shows that there are many different kinds of supplements out there. It can be difficult for consumers to choose a particular supplement given the large number of options available and the wide variety of health claims. There is a dizzying array of options, doses, and formulations that can often leave consumers baffled.
“Don’t waste clean thinking on dirty data.”
For decades we have been trying to understand the effects of vitamin C on the immune system, especially since Linus Pauling wrote Vitamin C and the Common Cold in 1970, with only limited success. Our best and most comprehensive analysis of the data at hand, collected from decades of research studies, shows that vitamin C has very limited effects on the frequency and duration of the common cold in the general population. This has led many to conclude that taking vitamin C to ward off a cold just isn’t worth it.
A surprising number of Americans fall short of micronutrient intake recommendations, as we have discussed in previous blog posts. While most of us are not suffering from rickets or pellagra (vitamin D and niacin deficiency diseases, respectively), many people may experience micronutrient ‘inadequacy’—insufficient intakes for optimum health.
It is hard to know if you have an inadequate diet. Often there is no telltale sign of an existing micronutrient inadequacy, as many have non-specific symptoms or no symptoms at all. Yet, the evidence suggests that these inadequacies may have very real and long-term consequences on our health and well-being.
As an example, we turn to Dr. Maret Traber’s new review on vitamin E inadequacy. Marginal vitamin E status is difficult to define, and its effects on neurological function are often subtle, in contrast to frank or severe vitamin E deficiency.
Recent research at the Linus Pauling Institute has found that lipoic acid, a substance found in many plants and animals and also made in the body, modulates circadian rhythms in laboratory rodents. We realize that circadian rhythms aren’t something you hear about every day, so here is a primer on circadian rhythms and their importance.
The Linus Pauling Institute has some very exciting research to report on potential therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Using a mouse model of ALS, Dr. Joseph Beckman (one of the leading researchers in this field, and a distinguished professor at the Linus Pauling Institute) and his colleagues in Australia and the United Kingdom have shown that a copper compound, called CuATSM, delayed the onset of symptoms and extended lifespan.
Put simply, this is potentially groundbreaking.
Following nutrition news headlines in the last few months, its hard to escape a message that multivitamins are useless and that the science all points to these supplements being a complete waste of money (Guallar et al., “Enough Is Enough”).
This is simply not the case. In a recently published letter in Annals of Internal Medicine, nutrition experts from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Tufts University, and the Harvard School of Public Health gather scientific evidence to show that the conclusions to stop your multivitamins are just plain wrong.
Want to see for yourself?
In the last few months, stories from various news outlets (and even from different researchers at Oregon State University) have said:
- Fish oil/omega-3s are great!
- Excess omega-3s are really bad!
- Fish oil/omega-3s are great (again)!!
- Never mind, fish oil doesn’t work…
This is confusing and frustrating for all of us. As is the case with most headlines, when you look more closely at the study details, explanations emerge. We have been gathering information on omega-3 fatty acids for decades and slowly learning about the many, varied, and complex effects of omega-3 fatty acids on health.
When you read the next news headline, consider these important issues:
A report from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) was published recently (February 25 issue) in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This report focused on the use of vitamin, mineral, or multivitamin supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The conclusions of the task force were largely that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the benefits and harms of most single-nutrient and multivitamin/mineral supplements with respect to prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer, although they did issue caution for vitamin E and beta carotene supplements. For the most part, experts at the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University agree with these findings, and state they are supported by an evidence-based review of the scientific literature on vitamin and mineral supplements.
An article by Paul Offit titled “The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements” has been part of the media blitz surrounding so-called negative claims of vitamin and mineral supplements.
This article specifically takes excerpts from Offit’s recently published book “Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.” The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has a different point of view – one that is based on the totality of the evidence, rather than selective claims:
This week’s (December 16, 2013) headlines stated that adults should stop taking multivitamin/mineral supplements (what some refer to simply as a ‘multivitamin’) as they have no apparent health benefit and may potentially be harmful. We at the Linus Pauling Institute believe that these conclusions are wrong and ignore the totality of the evidence from decades of nutrition research. Continue reading