War on Integrative Medicine, Part Three: Get the Public to Believe Junk Science

February 11, 2014
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Spin concept. AMA-helmed medical journals twist nutritional science and the mainstream media gobbles it up. Both are financially supported by Big Pharma.

On December 17, three studies on nutritional supplements were published in the same issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Practitioners, consumers, and scientists—both integrative and conventional—dismissed the studies as inconclusive, poorly interpreted, structurally questionable, and much too vague to truly analyze the benefits of supplementation.

It’s not surprising that “leading” medical journals and doctors continue to argue against natural alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs—they’re even more drug and drug money-dependent than even the average American. For example, doctors frequently rely on drug companies to pay for mandatory Continuing Medical Education (CME) classes, while journals like the Annals of Internal Medicine are utterly beholden to the advertising dollars of drug companies.

Unconvincing studies on dietary supplements are nothing new. However, these three had a unique advantage: in what appears to be an attempt to generate media buzz, they were accompanied by a scathing editorial that gleefully declared “case closed” on the effectiveness of dietary supplements.

The editorial, entitled “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” based its “decree” on those three flawed or inconclusive studies. Keep in mind that at this point, there are hundreds of thousands of scientific studies suggesting that supplements can be valuable.

As noted by ANH-USA board member Dr. Ron Hoffman, the compliance of patients to these particular “negative” studies’ supplementation regimen is unclear. “Recall” studies—where participants self-report whether or not they complied with the experiment’s protocols, sometimes years before—are notoriously unreliable.

We might add that one doesn’t really know for sure what the individuals took, what doses it contained, whether the right co-factors were taken, and of course whether the individuals were deficient in the substance to start with. In some cases, scientists devising studies do not even seem to know much about what they are studying.

As we point out in our companion article, so-called studies of vitamin E mostly use only alpha-tocopherols, even though it should be understood by now that tocopherols must be mixed, and that too much of the alpha form interferes with absorption of the arguably more vital gamma form. This is somewhat like the World Health Organization recommending putting calcium in the water supply without any realization that calcium without co-factor vitamin K2 in particular can create a heart risk rather than a bone benefit. The degree of ignorance about these basic points in many researchers is at this point inexcusable.

The Editorial Was Also Based on Flawed Assumptions

The editorial stated:

Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, they should be avoided. This message is especially true for the general population with no clear evidence of micronutrient deficiencies, who represent most supplement users in the United States.

This simply isn’t true. Most consumers don’t take vitamins to “prevent chronic disease or death,” as the editorial says. They’re just trying to bolster their overall health in combination with diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. The integrative community knows there’s no “magic pill” for health, and therefore strives for holistic solutions. In this sense, the Annals editorial perfectly personified the Achilles’ Heel of modern medicine: its hyper-focus on piecemeal, “one-pill-per-symptom” approaches to health.

Implying that the general population has “no micronutrient deficiencies” perpetuates a common anti-supplement myth: that we can get all of the vitamins and minerals we need from the average American diet. Common sense and a growing body of scientific evidence heartily disagree!

Fully twenty percent of Americans eat fast food twice a week; fourteen percent eat fast food three or more times a week. We can’t get all the micronutrients we need from burgers and fries! But even if we were to eschew fast food and crafted healthy meals every day, we’d still be lacking critical micronutrients: according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), up to 93% of Americans don’t get enough micronutrients in their diet due, in part, to soil depletion and our practice of breeding plants based solely on taste and aesthetics: in vegetables, for example, iron content has fallen 27% since 1940. As we have also pointed out, people vary greatly in their ability to digest and assimilate nutrients.

Study One: Multivitamins and Adults

This meta-analysis (which combines the results of selected independent studies, which itself introduces bias) showed “no clear evidence” of a beneficial effect of supplements on cancer prevention. Surprised by these results, ANH-USA’s sister organization, ANH-International, did a thorough analysis of the study’s design and found it to be a “perfect example of a study designed to fail”:

  • The supplementation doses were below the Institute of Medicine’s Tolerable Upper Levels (ULs). ULs are intrinsically flawed and result in extremely low doses, as they focus on the single most sensitive adverse effect occurring in the most vulnerable sub-population. It’s likely that these doses were too low to have any real effect.
  • The supplements used were synthetic, “bargain basement” multivitamins produced by Big Pharma.
  • The study failed to address how supplementation works in tandem with a healthful, active lifestyle.

Additionally, the study claimed to analyze multivitamins—yet out of the twenty-seven studies considered, only three looked at multivitamins.

Study Two: Older Men, Multivitamins, and Cognitive Decline

According to the editorial’s summary, multivitamins do not prevent cognitive decline in men over 65. However, according to the study’s own declaration of limitations, the doses used may have been “too low” and the study participants “too well-nourished” to benefit from a multivitamin.

Participants in this study were considered “adherent” to their multivitamin regimen if they took it a mere two-thirds of the time—as LEF pointed out in its rebuttal, that means you could skip the multivitamin four months out of the year, and still be included in the study results!

There’s also the problem of taking a single multivitamin for something as serious as cognitive decline, when other supplements (such as some B vitamins and foods such as coconut oil) are far more appropriate.

Then there’s the problem of the study’s main sponsors—and the strong possibility of conflicts of interest: Pfizer (which has been trying and failing to market an Alzheimer’s drug) and the chemical company BASF. These companies have a vested interest in the failure of supplements to help cognitive decline.

Study Three: Multivitamins in the Prevention of a Second Heart Attack

The intent of this study was to learn more about chelation therapy, not determine the benefits of dietary supplements. But somehow, the editorial uses this study as hard evidence that multivitamins don’t work.

You wouldn’t be able to tell this from the headlines, but any conclusions that can safely be drawn from the study actually indicate the incredible benefit of dietary supplements: those who took multivitamins without statins experienced a 34% reduction of cardiovascular risk! This is enough to “reach a high level of statistical significance,” (meaning it’s unlikely that the benefit observed was due to chance).

How could the editorial’s authors claim otherwise? In their analysis, they misleadingly lumped patients with vital differences together in one group. For example, some of the study participants were taking statins, while some weren’t. Since past research has shown that dietary supplements for heart health should not be used in tandem with statins (just another reason why statins have more drawbacks than benefits!), the results of the statin and non-statin groups should have been analyzed separately. Instead, the editors assessed them together. This essentially compared “apples to oranges,” and skewed the overall results.

Furthermore, the authors failed to acknowledge that subjects in the group that received multivitamins had a higher rate of diabetes. The problem? Since people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer heart disease, this may have also tainted the study’s “lump sum” results.

In any case, as both the study itself and the editorial are forced to state, no definitive conclusions can be safely drawn from this study, because it had a participant drop-out and non-adherence rate of 46%!

The Annals served up exactly what mainstream media loves: a reinforcement of the conventional medical narrative, “definitive” hyperbole, and a healthy dose of natural-health-bashing. The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Reuters, the New York Times, Fox News, and a number of local news outlets gobbled up the editorial word-for-word, leading with such headlines as “Study Finds Multivitamins Are a Complete Waste of Money, Why Do We Keep Taking Them?

In their eagerness to bash supplements, the mainstream media seems to have lost their memory (we’d recommend niacinamide for that): less than two years ago, they touted the Journal of American Medical Association’s study, which found that low-dose multivitamins may help prevent cancer in men, cutting their risk by up to 8%. The difference? That study’s centerpiece was the multivitamin Centrum Silver, made by Big Pharma company and mainstream-media advertising giant Pfizer.

What this demonstrates is how utterly controlling Big Pharma is when it comes to these studies. When the drug companies want to show supplements in a bad light (because they might compete with their high-dollar pharmaceutical, as with statins), the results are negative. But once in a while, when they have their own product to sell (here, their own brand of multivitamin), the results are more positive. Pfizer doesn’t sell expensive pharmaceuticals that “prevent” cancer, so they’re content to make a few bucks off of the mainstream media promoting their junk, low-dose vitamin.

21 Responses to “War on Integrative Medicine, Part Three: Get the Public to Believe Junk Science”

  1. Rhelda says:

    As long as our system is based upon health-care-for-profit, big money will prevail. Makes me think about school yard bullies. Remember, too, that the mainstream media will continue to print whatever sells. After all, they are not reporters; they are repeaters.

       2 likes

  2. Doris W. says:

    No doubt, politics is pushing the vitamin-bashing reports. It is not uncommon for prominent mainstream doctors to promote such disinformation (source: http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n14.shtml).

       0 likes

  3. Gerardo Vergara says:

    Big Pharma and its affiliate organizations will not let up even a bit in their relentless campaign to eliminate any kind of competition because they had almost perfected the execution of their plans to achieve their goal of total domination of the whole populations the whole world over. There is no stopping them right now since sick people could not see through any wrongs and major lapses they intentionally committed and are still intending to commit.
    I am a natural healer who possess a herbal medicine for diabetes and complications. There were so many instances that the conditions were totally reversed by my herbal preparation but was discredited by physicians who glibly convinced their former patients to stop drinking it even if they saw the treatments produced the best results the science of modern medicine could not achieve.
    It happened to a lady diabetic who told me she was scheduled for kidney operation to remove stones that was pulverized by the tea in about 2 months. Her doctor convinced her to stop drinking the tea and continue the synthetic prescriptions. Her family told me that they spent more than US$50,000 until her death 2 years later. The herbal tea cost her only about US$10 a month because I made her stop the useless palliatives that caused havoc to her body systems.
    What I could not accept is the way they call their methodologies modern when doctors are still amputating limbs of diabetics with festering wounds which is barbaric and primitive, not to mention painful and expensive and dialysis which is not a guarantee of restoring kidneys to full functional health. The herbal tea I found does it in a way that is easy on the body and easy on the pocket and reverses all the complications in a short period of time.
    And it still baffles me why the science came up with this professional title diabetologist which implies a doctor who specialized in diabetes but who actually is only good at writing prescriptions and not curing the disease. Smacks of desperate attempts to make diabetics believe more on what they say rather than on what they can actually do to bring about a semblance of a cure.
    My methodology resembles integrative medicine because I combined new researches on the proper diet a diabetic must observe which I based on a book written by an American nutritionist. It is highly effective in completely curing the condition within 4-5 months if the patient willfully observes the list of the dos and don’ts.
    It still surprises me to…

       2 likes

  4. Natahan Knowles says:

    So affaid real scient, but eran flase whan fits sooner to easy!

       0 likes

  5. Betty hoover says:

    Supplements definitely have their place! At times, so do prescriptions. I was brought up to think for myself, at nearly 76, I am still doing that. I make sure that I know as much as possible about the supplements I take and I make sure I know the harm in any prescriptions suggested. There most definitely is harm in many prescriptions.

    A friend, at 80, had heart surgery. The medicine prescribed has given him diabetes, high blood pressure and some other problems. He had none of those problems before. The surgeon even told him it would cause diabetes. He had to make a choice. He did and accepted the consequences. With the internet, we have a world of information in our hands. Give us our due, we too are intelligent and have the right to make choices!

       13 likes

  6. felicia kandel says:

    Junk science sucks!!

       1 likes

  7. I enjoyed your article. But what can somebody like me do to influence those entities to quote relevant studies and not shoot themselves in the foot by giving us the scrap and inconclusive studies?

       4 likes

  8. M.Ibanez says:

    . I am now 74 years of age and still voicing my opinion(s) relative to the controversy of the heavy hand and power of the Pharmaceutical companies and the section(s) of the medical establishment who literally held/hold uninformed patients as hostages without letting them know, in many instances, there were/are other methods of healing other than what ‘they’ had to offer and am proud to say that my own adult children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are growing up informed. Glad to have found this informational site /and
    by the way my family is familiar with the medical ‘establishment’ my husband (surgeon) practiced medicine for nearly 50 years; myself and OR Technician, my Daughter #1 Science of Medical Research OSU and Children’s Hospital Medical Center /Oh. – Daughter,#2 Birthing Instructor and Phlebotomist – however we have always been more reliant on promoting good health and ’staying away’ from the ‘establishment’ as much as possible / seeking out alternative and natural ways to treat ailments and stay healthy. Doctors/Hospitals/Pharmaceuticals have their place and are necessary and vital to society at specific times; however, there is a whole other world out there – which often is up to par with the aforementioned – it’s the hunger for power and the ‘almighty dollar’ that drives the industries and individuals who fight so hard to literally “kill” what ever else is good. People are beginning to take notice and I hope that ‘we’ can find victory in the numbers of individuals who wiling to l take a stand. Thanks for the opportunity to ‘voice’ opinions on the forum.

       8 likes

  9. Suzanne says:

    As a holistic nutrition coach, I realize that the war on supplements is all about money. I realize how well supplements work because I take them myself and have for many years and have learned about them in my graduate program. Still nobody tells the truth about supplements like my dear friend and author, Tom Petrie. This book is available on Amazon.

    Anti Vitamin Baloney Paperback
    by Tom C. Petrie

       3 likes

  10. Ingrid Harris says:

    Excellent articles. Wish everyone would read them. Really shows what is going on in the “medical” arena.

    Finally, someone has written about the dangers of PPI’s. Hydrochloric acid is intended to cleanse the foods we eat of most bacteria so they do not cause illness. If you allow them to pass through your intestinal tract, you leave yourself open to becoming ill along with malabsorption of nutrients.

    It is shocking how the drug companies pay people to do research which finds in their favor and provide money to universities to do research for them.

    it is disgusting that about 40 years ago they knew that folic acid would help prevent spina bifida but it was not touted until about 20 years later. About 10 years ago it was known that Tylenol was a leading cause of liver transplants. Why did they keep it secret until 4 years ago and only recently educating people to be cautious in its use?

    It is very sad that people find comfort in giving up their responsibility of taking care of their bodies to a system that thrives on making them ill. It is sad that people do not want to spend money on their health. They would rather take a harmful drug that costs $4 copay than pay $20 for a supplement that will help them truly get well.

    It’s all about propaganda. God help us!

       7 likes

  11. Kathleen Kreiselmeyer says:

    Having worked in the healthcare/medical world as an RN, I was able to see the shift to a drug induced medical care by the majority of MD’s. From my perspective, this has increased the “diseases” that we now have in our country. Along with non-nutritious, unhealthy foods, and
    many folks having more than one job, personal activity, or exercise, has lost momentum and drugs have replaced it. I’m not sure of the answers but it is concerning that a company like Big Pharma has such power/lobby over our medical care. My own agenda is to stay away from doctors & hospitals – only for emergencies. Fortunately, for the first time in my life, I have found a wonderful MD who uses conventional + alternative care & teaches wellness to her patients. She even spends a good amount of time explaining health & wellness to me & I love the TLC.

       6 likes

  12. Thomas Braun says:

    It should be mandatory reading in med school. “Science in the private interest”
    and “The truth about drug companies” Then maybe, we will start delivery better medical treatment with positive results.

    A politicized FDA can’t protect the American public from harm with the rules and regulations that have been shaped by those health entities that benefit financially from the status quo.
    Thank you Natural health for the courage to speak the truth objectively.

       3 likes

  13. Linda Sewell says:

    Fabulous set of articles! Thank you!

       3 likes

  14. James Hoeft says:

    All I can say is high quality supplements have made a huge difference in my life . Keep up the good work ANH-USA

       3 likes

  15. John Cutler says:

    I’ve been on an anti-cancer (prostate) protocol for almost 4 years. This protocol uses a combination of nutrition (customized diet, organic food and supplements), pancreatic enzymes to go after the cancer cells, and cleansings (liver, pancreas, skin, colon…) to flush toxins produced by the dying cancer cells.

    In addition to a steady decline in the cancer markers, I’m in better health than ever, my energy has gone way up (I used to feel like I was walking through deep sand), my mind works better…

    Because of these attacks by the anti-supplement groups, the cost of some of my supplements has increased 50% within the last 12 months (new testing and “safety” requirements imposed by the government).

       4 likes

  16. I would like to put your logo or links to your articles on my site. May I do that?

       0 likes

    • ANH-USA says:

      Hi Anthony–Thank you for your message! We don’t currently offer our logo for linkage, but please do post links to our articles on your site! The more citizens taking action, the better. All the very best, Liz @ANH-USA.

         0 likes

  17. Dennis Robinson, Ph.D. says:

    If people die younger, the medical industry will get their return (hospital expenses) on investment (Obamacare & Medicare) sooner and will lower the cost of ongoing investment costs. Otherwise our economy will crash earlier. A minor sacrifice for the sake of the economy.

       0 likes

  18. Judy Holmes says:

    Why did it erase my comment?

       0 likes

  19. Judy Holmes says:

    So what can we do to protect our vital use of helpful “alternative medicine”. Conventional medicine has gotten so bad, and so toxic, I’d rather take nothing than have to use it!! Back before I knew any better I had several health problems being treated conventionally. Now, with natural treatments, I don’t have ANY health problems!! HELP!!

       6 likes

  20. Thank you so much for condensing this information for those of us who are concerned and doing what we can to help people get accurate information about their own health. These attacks are outrageous and many people do believe them. You lite a fire in me to do even more work in this area.

    Thank you,

    Mary Waterhouse

       4 likes

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