Posts Tagged ‘Health’

There’s Vitamins and then There’s Vitamins

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Note from Mike: I recently tweeted an NYT story that claims deleterious health effects from consuming too many vitamins with the note that I thought it likely people were gobbling too many pills. My wife decided the article merited a response.

This NYT article on vitamins contained a few scientific issues that I feel the need to respond to. Unfortunately, the NYT didn’t allow opinions to be expressed so you will have to endure my ranting and raving.

The article provides details about published studies, two of which are published in The New England Journal of Medicine, that claim deleterious effects from excessive vitamin consumption. These studies show that those that took Vitamin A or beta carotene (Vitamin K) supplements were more likely to die from lung cancer or heart disease compared to those who didn’t. The article also lists other studies showing a correlation between taking Vitamin A, E, beta carotene (Vitamin K), Vitamin C and selenium supplements and mortality. The author then goes on the say the link between mortality and the vitamins ingested are antioxidants.

I cannot agree with this conclusion as this conflates fat soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble meaning any excess taken in the diet is stored in the fat of an individual and the body can’t regulate these nearly as well as the water soluble ones. Selenium is water soluble, as are the Vitamins B and C. An excess of a water soluble vitamin or mineral is removed in the urine by the body. I can therefore see the disease and mortality states arising from fat soluble vitamins. But I am concerned that the studies showing consuming the water soluble vitamins plus Vitamin C and selenium came to the wrong conclusion. It may be a case of guilt by association with the fat soluble vitamins. Have any studies looked at water soluble vitamins in isolation?

I worry about this because there are benefits to high vitamin levels for certain conditions. The third paragraph claims:

Nutrition experts argue that people need only the recommended daily allowance — the amount of vitamins found in a routine diet. Vitamin manufacturers argue that a regular diet doesn’t contain enough vitamins, and that more is better.

Up until I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), I would have subscribed to the nutrition experts’ opinion as well. But after turning my research interests towards the genetic underpinnings of MS (I am a medical geneticist), I quickly uncovered how vital Vitamin D is in the management of the relapse-remitting disease. I even tried getting out in the sun in the summer and turned to tanning beds in the winter to maximize my body producing enough Vitamin D to manage my MS without resorting to Vitamin D supplements. After many flare ups over a two to three year period, the last of which put me in a wheelchair in the summer time, my Vitamin D level came back each time as below optimal levels. For this reason, I now take four times the FDA recommended level of Vitamin D in a supplement form to help manage my MS. Over the past year of doing this, I can report, my MS is well managed without any flare ups. For this reason, I think that the levels listed on the recommended daily allowance are not adequate for people with medical conditions needing additional supplements.

I consume a prescription strength dose of folate, vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6 for overcoming the chance of a miscarriage while I carry my second child. After three miscarriages, I was recently diagnosed as being a carrier of a gene known to be involved with miscarriages as well as migraines, cardiovascular disease and other disorders. To overcome this reduced gene function, more Vitamin B is needed to reduce homocysteine levels in the body. Since Vitamin B is a water soluble vitamin, I am also supplementing it with the consumption of spinach, which does not contain much Vitamin B12 or Vitamin B6, just folic acid (folate). Since my taste for spinach is waning, I rely on the supplement strength pill for these additional vitamins as I know my body can self regulate the concentration of these vitamins without much harm to the baby. Similarly, my husband also has the same genetic abnormality and suffers from migraines. To treat this disease, we buy an over the counter Vitamin B supplement for his symptom management at not much cost to us versus the prescription strength pill that I take.

This is why calling on the FDA to better regulate vitamin supplement sales makes me a bit nervous. If the FDA becomes involved in this fight, I worry that the ability to self regulate symptom management for diseases and disorders may be impaired. Tighter regulation of the fat soluble vitamins may be justified. But it is not obvious that tighter regulation of water soluble vitamins is.

Beach Linkorama

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
  • Color video of Hiroshima.
  • Once again, we can rest easy because a bias was mistaken for data.
  • You can sue for anything these days.
  • Oops. Looks like anti-oxidants are a myth. I swear: one day we’re going to open the paper and find that scientists have declared that greasy burgers and fries are the best meal for your health.
  • Wednesday Linkorama

    Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

    Thanks to Twitter siphoning off my political rants, you’re getting more … non-political links:

  • Cracked debunks the Twitter revolution. I’m forced to mostly agree. Social networking may have played a minor role in the upheavals in the Middle East, at best. But real activism involves risking your life, not turning your Facebook profile green.
  • I really really like this idea of the Billion Price Index as a complement to traditional inflation metrics.
  • Do you know … do either of you have any idea of how fucking glad I am I don’t have a big ass commute anymore? I can’t imagine how I did it for so long.
  • I really hope the anti-homework agenda catches on. What’s being done to kids these days is absurd busy work bullshit.
  • So do you think studies like this will, in any way, slow down those who want to ban fatty foods?
  • Political links:

  • Experts are once again stunned that poverty does not cause crime. They seem to be stunned by this quite a lot.
  • Want to stimulate the economy? Wonder how America can lead the world in innovation again? Repeal SOX.
  • Mathematical Malpractice Watch: Why NationMaster Sucks

    Thursday, April 21st, 2011

    Graphjam ran a graphic today apparently showing all the awful things the US leads the world in.

    It’s crap. It’s clearly produced by someone who spent a few minutes browing nationmaster.com. Nationmaster is convenient but their accuracy is, at best, suspect. There is no uniformity of data and many of the samples are incomplete or old. To be honest, you’re better off going to wikipedia. Much better off.

    But beyond that, they just haven’t thought too much. For example, the graphic has has the US as #1 in crime. This is true, but only because we are a large country and a transparent one. The UK has half as many crimes but a fifth of our population. Germany half as many crimes but a quarter of our population. The crime rate in the US is high but not tops. Same goes with rape, which they have as #1. Scandinavian countries lead the civilized world in that (although likely because they measure their rape stats differently).

    But a lot of this is the nationmaster problem. They have the US as #1 in CO2 emissions. This is actually wrong as China is #1. US emissions have actually been flat over the last few decades. The nationmaster data are 10 years old — way too far out of date. They also have the US as #1 in divorce rate. This is wrong. Russia is #1.

    Teen birth rate? The US is #1 among developed nations. But you have to exclude almost every developing nation in the world to get that ranking. Nationmaster’s data is selective and based on 1994 data. The teen birth rate has plunged since then.

    Heart attacks? I haven’t the faintest clue what they’re showing here. But heart attack survival rates have been growing massively in the US.

    We do lead the world in McDonald’s restaurants and plastic surgery. That tends to come from being the richest country on Earth. We also, unfortunately, lead the world in both prison population and incarceration rate — yet another wonderful effect of our stupid war on drugs.

    Friday Linkorama

    Saturday, April 9th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • Was Travels with Charley a sham? Seems so.
  • Well, I’m glad to see that someone wants to take football concussions seriously.
  • Yes.
  • This piece by O’Rourke hits my reaction to Atlas Shrugged pretty accurately. It’s good. As a philosophy, it has its flaws. But it exposes the true villainy of collectivism and the virtue of self-determination.
  • Political links:

  • This is how conservatives should do justice.
  • No, no, no, no, no no, no. TARP did not turn a profit. No way. No how. They just moved money around to make it seem like they did.
  • The latest from the Obama conspiracy nuts: his knee was in NY while he was in Kenya.
  • It’s a good week: free trade is moving forward.
  • My political view are libertarian-conservative, not Republican. So I’m more than happy to praise a Democrat, even a Cuomo, when he’s doing the right thing.
  • An Accident Waiting To Happen

    Friday, May 4th, 2007

    I’m a huge baseball fan and the world was shaken recently by the death of Josh Hancock of the St. Louis Cards. The second I heard about it, I said, “two to one he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.” My dad’s a trauma surgeon and I’ve seen first-hand the difference that a seat belt can make. It is so dramatic that it over-rides my usual Libertarian leaning so that I absolutely support seat belt laws.

    (Again, if we lived in a pitiless society that let brain-damaged quads die, opposing seat belt laws would be fine. But we don’t. Thank God we don’t.)

    Anyway, now we find out that Josh Hancock was not only not wearing a seat belt, but was drunk, possibly high, speeding and chatting on the cell phone. Under those circumstances, I’m merely grateful he didn’t take anyone else with him.

    It’s a horrible tragedy to see anyone under the age of 70 die these days. And I’m not saying, “oh, he deserved it!”. No one does. I just hope that all the mourning baseball players, fans and sports twerps will use this as an example, an inspiration to not drink and drive, to stay off the cell phone, to keep the speed down and, above all else, to realize they are not indestructible and buckle their fucking seat belts!.

    Professional athletes, it seems, are particularly vulnerable to thinking themselves invulnerable. How many more stories do we need of promising young athletes destroying themselves with recreational drugs, alcohol, steroids, car racing (Sue and I used to always be able to tell with Ravens practice ended in Owings Mills — fifteen sports cars would race to downtown Baltimore). Yes, the pressures athletes live under are unthinkable. But this has to stop.

    As I said in the wake of the VT massacre, the best way to honor the dead is to live for them. Let’s hope a few baseball players start buckling up. Let’s hope everyone does.