Claims that there are no vitamin benefits (or few and minor, at best), and that nutritional supplements are a big public danger have been promoted by opponents of these health products for decades. They are little more than outright lies or manifestations of profound ignorance.
Every once in a while, someone goes through extra lengths to discredit vitamins and health supplements. Oftentimes, it is by publishing a book about the topic.
Previously, I had written about such a laborious, albeit flawed and misleading, account of vitamin scaremongering (in the article "Scaremongering About Vitamin Side Effects: How Supplement Truths Get Distorted" -see 'Recommended next page(s)' at the end of this article for a direct link to it).
One of the more recent scathing books on nutritional supplements and side effects is from a devoted representative of mainstream medicine, Paul A. Offit, MD, called Killing Us Softly: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine (Offit, 2013; Kindle/Paperback Editions [the Kindle/Hardcover Editions are entitled "Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine" (see references)]). And, a couple of accompanying articles, "Vitamins: stop taking the pills", published online in The Guardian (Offit, 7-June-2013), and "Don’t Take Your Vitamins", published online in The New York Times (Offit, 8-June-2013), that served to promote the book's upcoming release.
In those vitamin-bashing works, Offit promotes the notion that dietary supplements represent a very significant danger to public health because they, "can" or "could", increase people's "risk of cancer and heart disease and shorten their lives" (Offit, 8-June-2013). And, that we generally get all the essential nutrients (e.g., vitamins) through "a routine diet" (Offit, 7 & 8-June-2013) so that, overall, no vitamin benefits are obtained by taking nutritional supplements. Offit exempts a few supplements, as they "might be of value", such as folic acid in pregnancy to prevent birth defects (Offit, 7-June-2013).
A more detailed examination of Offit's allegations (i.e., virtually no vitamin benefits from supplements, food supplements are very dangerous) reveals that his anti-supplement publications are really all about politics.
Not the facts. Not the truth.
Primarily, these offerings are propaganda pieces aimed at denouncing and diminishing the vital status of the supplement industry (or, in more general terms, the health industry or alternative medicine), as an obvious, continuously-growing competitor of the business of the orthodox medical profession.
How does Offit (try to) accomplish that?
By resorting to scaremongering about vitamin side effects, by presenting data in a deceptive manner, or using misleading or flawed research data, and by taking recourse in hype, to create a false public perception about vitamin benefits and dangers.
Good judgment is a result of good perception. Good perception requires good information.
That's exactly where Offit's weak spot is, that's where he falls so short... at dispensing good information about vitamin benefits and safety.
(NOTE: A condensed version of this long article has been published in the peer-reviewed publication Orthomolecular Medicine News Service (OMNS), a non-profit, non-commercial informational resource, as "Anti-Vitamin Publications: Misinformation Presented As Truth" by Rolf Hefti, Vol. 9, No. 14, 18-July-2013 [direct link: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n14.shtml])
“Nothing dismisses an argument better than humor.” (Paul A. Offit, MD, Vaccine Industry Chief Spokesman)
The fundamental lack of scientific significance and credibility of Killing Us Softly/Do You Believe In Magic and the concomitant promotional articles is quite well epitomized in a statement by Offit from a few years ago:
"If they were willing to look at all the studies that were done with vaccines, they would find that they are, I think without question, the safest, best-tested thing we put into our bodies. I think they have a better safety record than vitamins [...]." (Leung, 2009) [emphasis added]
But, incidentally, Paul Offit, MD, isn't a stranger to making such non-sensical comments...
For example, he claimed that an infant can safely tolerate 10,000 vaccines all at once (Offit, et al., 2002). (There are people who are still waiting for Offit to conduct this experiment on himself.)
Besides Offit's disregard of copious and crucial scientific evidence on serious vaccine side effects (e.g., Sinclair, 1992; Coulter, 1993; Scheibner, 1993; King, 2005; Neil & Miller, 2008; Habakus, et al., 2012; Obukhanych, 2014), it makes little biological (and common) sense that a body-foreign (non-essential) material, such as a vaccine, is going to be safer than a body-familiar (essential) substance, such as a vitamin (or a mineral, or water). His silly, unscientific statement is analogous to saying that taking vaccines is safer than drinking water.
How did Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., MD (1809–1894), refer to a person who's uttering such "logical evidence"?
"Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor."
A closer look at Offit's background proffers insightful clues to such baffling remarks of his. And, it describes the larger context for understanding his anti-supplement publications.
Offit has been a major spokesman for the vaccine industry and has patent shares on a vaccine (the sale of the royalty interest of those patents earned him millions of dollars [Attkisson, 2008; Olmsted & Blaxill, 2009]). As a vaccine patent holder, Offit was on an advisory panel recommending vaccination to government health authorities, thereby exerting influence on key decisions affecting public health from a position of conflict-of-interests (King, 2005; Olmsted & Blaxill, 2009). Apparently, the predicament was not an ethical problem for him, presumably because the conflicted situation helped him greatly financially.
Offit had also been caught lying about his well-documented conflict-of-interests (also known as competing interests) and his self-serving ties to the pharmaceutical industry (Crosby, 2011; Orange County Register, 2011). Even a prestigious medical journal, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, publicized a case where Offit falsified some data (Poling, 2008; King, 2008).
Since Offit has been caught more than once in misrepresenting crucial facts, is it hard to imagine he could do it again with his attacks on dietary supplement safety and his claim that there are few to none vitamin benefits from nutritional supplements?
Based on the data from the aforementioned sources, this is a man who unscrupulously propagates his self-interests and that of the medical establishment.
Above and beyond being a chief spokesman for the vaccine industry, Offit is a perfect spokesman for (the business of) the medical industry, selling drugs and other medical interventions.
Arguably, Offit belongs to the same group of staunch, but highly unreasonable, defenders of the interests of the conventional medical establishment as the ruthless Morris Fishbein, MD (1889-1976), was during the first half of the 20th century, and more recently, Stephen Barrett, MD, both of whom Offit cites favorably in his book (Offit, 2013).
All of them have one trait in common: they all declared, without generally providing much meaningful scientific substantiation, that practically any healing therapy outside the confinements of the medical orthodoxy is nothing but a scam. But most telling about their irrational tirades is another common denominator amongst them: they all have (or had) unmistakable vested interests because they are (or were) devoted members and ostentatious mouthpieces (i.e., salesmen) of orthodox medicine.
"A half-truth is a whole lie." (Jewish Proverb)
Vested (competing) interests are common in scientific research, public health policy making, and conventional medicine, leading to a preferential validation of the orientation of the funding source(s), which most commonly is the business called "orthodox medicine" or "the medical industry" (Rampton & Stauber, 2002; Ioannidis, 2005; Smith, 2006; Wells & Farthing, 2008; Bion, 2009; Jagsi, et al., 2009; Lathyris, et al., 2010; Lundh, et al., 2010).
Unsurprisingly, Offit, as an ostentatious representative and promoter of the business interests of the medical industry, has displayed previously such biased favoritism. For example, he has a history of disregarding the sound evidence against the safety of vaccines while promoting the evidence of the alleged safety of vaccines, favoring his own and his sponsor's (=medical-pharmaceutical/vaccine industry) ideology.
He plays the same game of biased favoritism in his anti-vitamin book and articles.
He cherry-picks the "evidence" that nurtures the interests of his conflicted affiliation and allegiance (i.e., to the medical establishment), by listing a bunch of anti-supplement data.
The solid evidence of remarkable health benefits of vitamins,
gathered from extensive clinical practice and research studies,
is totally ignored.
Both the mainstream medical establishment as well as the mainstream news media (for whom the medical-pharmaceutical industry is one of their main advertising clients) frequently disregard positive findings of vitamin benefits but are inclined to strongly raise public attention about negative findings.
Thus, spreading "a half-truth" to the public at large.
Here is a fitting example of this everyday practice. A scientific investigation, a randomized controlled study, representing the alleged pinnacle of "evidence-based medicine", released online in May of 2013, showed that the high intake of some B vitamin supplements (at levels practically impossible to obtain from a "routine diet" alone -or even from a very healthy diet) very greatly (by 90%) reduced brain shrinkage (a symptomatic sign of Alzheimer's Disease) in older folks with pre-existing "mild cognitive impairment" and with high homocysteine levels (Douaud, et al., 2013) which tend to be elevated in people with Alzheimer Disease (Ho, et al., 2011).
Yet, I've noticed that this impressive news story received very sparse coverage from the corporate media conglomerate and the orthodox medical profession.
Others also observed the shocking indifference of the mainstream medical establishment (and Alzheimer's charities) to the uplifting news on vitamin benefits from food supplements. The blog article (Burne, 2013) by Jerome Burne, an award-winning health journalist, entitled "Alzheimer’s: we want a cure but please don’t mention B vitamins", referring to an ominous prejudice of the medical profession, is a good example of attempting to raise attention about the eery silence of the dominant culture regarding these stunning vitamin benefits, elicited from "premium grade research".
So Burne, pondering the near total lack of acknowledgment of this important study by the medical orthodoxy, wondered:
"Could it be because drugs are simply preferred to vitamins whatever the evidence?" (Burne, 2013) [emphasis added]
It suggests that the ruling pillars of influence in a society are not (necessarily, or as commonly assumed) after the truth but after guarding and sustaining prevailing medical perspectives and orientations, such as the use of drug therapies.
There are other ways ruling forces of the culture merely give you "a half-truth" on nutritional supplements...
For instance, in Offit's Killing Us Softly/Do You Believe In Magic there is no mention of the fact that many so-called evidence-based studies against micronutrient supplements are seriously flawed. Actually, Offit uses several of these poorly-designed or otherwise misleading studies as, supposedly, reliable examples to discredit the use of vitamins and food supplements. Offit's supplement-opposing works, for instance, discourage the general use of vitamins (i.e., "Don’t Take Your Vitamins" [Offit, 8-June-2013]), yet he cites studies to support his sweeping generalization where the findings do not (or barely) apply to the public on the whole.
Specifically, Offit (Offit, 2013; 7 & 8 June, 2013) lists a number of studies showing that high doses of vitamins and minerals increase the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. However, many of those investigations were conducted on already sick people or on people with an increased risk of death, cancer, or heart disease (due to heavy smoking, for instance).
For example, to prove his point he cites two "anti-supplement" studies (NEJM, 1994; Omenn, et al., 1996) which found an increased risk of death from lung cancer in heavy, longterm smokers (NEJM, 1994) or either heavy longterm smokers and longterm asbestos workers (Omenn, et al., 1996). Additional re-evaluations of these two papers and similar research studies revealed this increase was only in smokers who also "drank alcohol" (Baron, et al., 2003).
Also, in the NEJM study of 1994 "the beta carotene group smoked one year more than the no beta carotene group", tweaking the incidence of lung cancer (further) in disfavor of the supplements via this bias, an obvious flaw the study authors did not elaborate on (Hoffer, 1994). Additionally, because the entire group consisted of heavy, longterm (35+ years) smokers "it is certain that a large fraction already had the cancer" when the study began (Hoffer, 1994), albeit undiagnosed.
Yet in a very similar study (to the NEJM, 1994 & Omenn, et al., 1996 investigations) on almost all healthy subjects (Hennekens, et al., 1996) there was no increase in risk of cancer, heart disease, or mortality from the use of these supplements. On the contrary, the study by the Baron group (2003) showed that those people who "who neither smoked cigarettes nor drank alcohol" had a significantly decreased risk of recurrent cancer.
But Offit uses the two studies on longterm chain-smokers to make his "don't take vitamins" recommendations as if they were to reliably apply to the public on the whole (Offit, 2013 & 7 & 8 June 2013). Why pick the evidence that does not reflect the situation for most people as most people are not longterm chain-smokers who also regularly consume alcohol? It makes one wonder just how carefully he examined these studies. Or is Offit hoping no one notices?
Similarly, another study (Miller, et al., 2005) Offit utilizes to form his advice for the general population to "stop taking vitamin pills" (Offit, 7-June-2013) showed that high doses of vitamin E "may" increase the risk of mortality. However, it was performed on primarily older (over 60 years of age) "patients with chronic diseases" (Miller, et al., 2005). Even the study authors raised attention about this and other obvious study limitations, such as small study size of many trials included in the meta-analysis:
"The generalizability of the findings to healthy adults is uncertain." (Miller, et al., 2005) [emphasis added]
But this obvious uncertainty to project the study findings from older, gravely sick people onto younger, otherwise healthy people didn't stop Offit from using it to build his case of certainty against general supplement use. Is it maybe because Offit simply followed (blindly) the "conclusions" of the study authors (Miller, et al., 2005) in which they committed the same scientific blunder of data generalization in spite of their recognition of their own data's significant limitations?
Offit also mentions some Cochrane database reviews as evidence against nutritional supplements. Unlike the popular assumption that Cochrane's data is highly reliable because it is an "independent organization", the Cochrane collaboration is an entity with conflicting interests involving the medical (i.e., pharmaceutical) industry (e.g., Moynihan, 2003; Lenzer, 2004).
In view of this nefarious connection, it probably isn't surprising that the Cochrane conglomerate, at several occasions, recommended that “antioxidant supplements should be regulated as drugs” (e.g., Bjelakovic, et al., 2004). If that were the case, the public will lose its free access to these non-patentable (i.e., natural) health products (especially to effective supplements), a subsequent ramification of which would be an increased public reliance on patentable, pharmaceutical medications, rather than on dietary supplements and other therapies of natural medicine.
So, there they are again. Those pesky conflicts-of-interests. They are, it appears, quite frequently present in anti-supplement studies... if you only look a bit closer.
Why does Offit give reference to studies from an organization conflicted with competing interests? Could it be because Offit himself is conflicted by vested interested linked to the same industry -that is, the medical-pharmaceutical establishment?
And, more often than not, on the heels of conflict-of-interests follow slanted studies of "evidence-based medicine". For instance, the particular Cochrane group centering around Bjelakovic has been spewing out several anti-supplement papers. At least one of them is blatantly and inexcusably biased.
For example, in their meta-analysis of randomized trials, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007 (Bjelakovic, et al., 2007), the study authors selected trials with a very wide dosage range of vitamin E supplements and very wide usage ranges, spanning from 4 weeks to 14 years, leading to unreliable, meaningless generalizations. Worse, the investigators omitted hundreds of trials on antioxidant supplements showing zero mortality, and two of the excluded studies found a significant reduction in mortality from the intake of nutritional supplements, biasing the analysis by the Bjelakovic team in disfavor of supplements (Frei, 2007).
A re-analysis of this meta-analysis, however, found that only 4% of practically all the included trials described a negative outcome from supplementation on the disease being examined (Biesalski, et al., 2010), making the negative conclusion of the Cochrane study misleading at best.
After the publication of the meta-analysis by the Bjelakovic workers (2007), the tabloid news media, of course, swiftly and ostentatiously got these negative results about antioxidant supplements out to the public with fearmongering headlines such as "Vitamins 'could shorten lifespan'" (BBC News, UK, 28-Feb-2007) or "Supplements 'raise death rate by 5%'" (The Times, UK, 28-Feb-2007).
One paper Offit mentioned (Klein, et al., 2011) found that vitamin E supplements increased the risk of prostate cancer in healthy men. Yet in those men who also received selenium supplements there was no statistically significant increase in risk (Klein, et al., 2011). Also, many of the study authors had conflict-of-interests as they disclosed financial affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry (Klein, et al., 2011).
Another study Offit mentioned (e.g., Offit, June, 2013; Offit, 7-June-2013) in his very small arsenal of evidence against the general use of vitamin supplements that found a higher mortality rate among multivitamin users, is an observational study (Mursu, et al., 2011), thus fails to proffer a causal link between intake of supplements and mortality risk in women, a limitation the study authors admitted to. But the study contains several other grave limitations not mentioned, such as a lack of clear definition of the term "supplement user", making it a highly flawed paper. Pooling subjects together who could have used supplements daily, monthly, or yearly (or other variations of time-use) and then making reliable projections based on such an unstandardized group leads to unpredictable, unreliable findings and conclusions.
Also, Alan R. Gaby, MD, pointed out that the Mursu group study (2011) never mentioned the actual death rate in their investigation, only the "adjusted" death rates without describing how they made those adjustments (Fitzgerald, 2012). Gaby noted that the researchers "artificially adjusted the death rate of the vitamin users upward" (Fitzgerald, 2012), leading to an unfavorable finding for the group of supplement users.
Moreover, in numerous instances of negative study findings on vitamins and health supplements, it had been known for a long time that the studies were faulty, thus their results and conclusions unreliable. But...
... that critical evidence continues to be ignored by disciplines of the medical profession (such as Offit) and the mainstream establishment in general,
... thereby misrepresenting and distorting the actual facts on nutritional supplements, such as on the side effects of supplements or vitamin benefits.
In other words, the control of information is not just funneled at its "source" (such as with biased meta-analyses, for example) but also "at the second tier", when dissenting evidence that debunks the official but wrong claims about vitamin benefits and toxicities surfaces.
Here are some examples of this trick to mislead the public regarding the truth about nutritional supplements...
Offit totally discredits Linus Pauling, PhD, (1901-1994), a two-time Nobel prize winner and pioneer of orthomolecular medicine, for his claim that high dose vitamin C supplements have a notable effect on the duration or severity of infections of the upper respiratory tract, such as the common cold or the flu (Offit, 7-June-2013). Offit cites an investigation from the early 1940s where the scientists concluded there were no noteworthy vitamin C benefits from supplements on those types of infections (Cowan, et al., 1942). Although, a re-analysis of the study data of the Cowan team by Dr. Linus Pauling (Pauling, 1974) revealed that even a moderate daily dose of vitamin C (roughly 200mg) led to "a 31-percent decrease in the amount of illness" (=fewer days of illness, less severe symptoms), a significant finding the study authors simply dismissed to Pauling's amazement. It's an exhibit of lying by omission.
And, this is not a single incident in history. Several officially highly acclaimed studies or reviews had claimed that there are no health benefits of vitamin C supplements on the duration and severity of colds when in actually "the original conclusions of the authors were inconsistent with the published data" (Hemilä, 2006). Or, pertinent research data on vitamin C and the common cold, such as the nutrient's proper therapeutic usage, is omitted in studies claiming no vitamin benefits from vitamin C supplements against the respiratory infection (Hickey & Roberts, 2005).
Improper, false, or misleading interpretations or conclusions of the published data by the study authors have been recognized in other "anti" nutritional supplement studies. For instance, in a randomized controlled trial (Lee, et al., 2005) evaluating "whether vitamin E supplementation decreases risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer among healthy women", the published numbers show that those women who received the vitamin E supplements had a significant 24% reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease (in the women age 65+ the reduction was 49%!).
In the study's conclusion Lee and colleagues stated that the vitamin E supplements "provided no overall benefit for major cardiovascular events or cancer, did not affect total mortality, and decreased cardiovascular mortality in healthy women. These data do not support recommending vitamin E supplementation for cardiovascular disease or cancer prevention among healthy women" (Lee, et al., 2005).
Also, Offit ridiculed Pauling's claim that megavitamin therapy can "treat cancer" (Offit, 7-June-2013).
Pauling was right (and still is) about the administration of high doses of vitamin C (vitamin C therapy) in the fight against cancer (e.g., Hickey & Roberts, 2004).
Pauling and a colleague conducted a couple of studies on terminal cancer patients, considered "untreatable" by orthodox medical standards. They found that high doses of vitamin C supplements (as L-ascorbic acid) increased survival by 50+ times in treated patients over untreated subjects (Cameron & Pauling, 1976 & 1978). Subsequently, two randomized, placebo-controlled studies (Creagan, et al., 1979; Moertel, et al., 1985), conducted by representatives of the orthodox cancer establishment (i.e., Mayo clinic), claimed to have disproven the studies by Cameron and Pauling with exact replications of their studies.
Offit cited both of these rebuttal studies, showing no vitamin benefits from vitamin C in the treatment of cancer, in his book (Offit, June 2013).
These anti-vitamin studies, unlike the Cameron & Pauling investigations, received wide public attention from the popular media, presumably to "show" the public just how ineffective dietary supplements are in the fight against cancer.
Pauling, however, convincingly demonstrated (Pauling, 1986) that the two Mayo studies were hopelessly flawed because they did not follow his and Cameron's study protocol. The scientific replication of a study demands that the exact same methodological protocol is adhered to, otherwise it is slander, an invalid comparison, and thus the ill-designed studies are nothing but junk science in relation to the base studies.
The New England Journal Of Medicine (NEJM) published the inconsequential studies (Creagan, et al., 1979; Moertel, et al., 1985) that falsely asserted to have exactly repeated the vitamin C studies by Pauling and Cameron. But, the NEJM rejected repeatedly to publish Pauling's correct critique of those papers (Hoffer, 1987; Richards, 1988).
There are other highly acclaimed medical journals that had also been noted to suppress truthful information:
"The Journal of the American Medical Association has quickly published reports about some hypothesized dangers of vitamins, presumably for the public good, even when these dangers are manufactured. But it has steadfastly refused to publish letters or articles which pointed out the errors in these reports." (Hoffer, 1987) [emphasis added]
In the US, people supposedly live in a land of "a free press". The auxiliary term "free" suggests to the public that the press is automatically providing them with the truth. In reality, "a free press" means a press free to suppress information to accommodate an agenda rather than the truth. As Ernest J. Sternglass, PhD, a radiation physicist, had stated once, "when vital information is secretly kept from free people, they are no longer free."
In order for Pauling to get his truthful critique out to the public at
large, passed the oppressive forces, it left him with nearly no other
option than to publish it in one of his own books (Pauling, 1986). A thorough independent investigation of the vitamin benefits in the ascorbic acid-cancer matter validated much of the allegations brought forward by Pauling and Cameron against the esteemed representatives of the medical orthodoxy (Richards, 1988).
In Offit's supplement-slandering works he omitted to mention the critical evidence that the two Mayo clinic studies are scientifically irrelevant in their attempt to disprove Pauling's claim.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), too, failed to alert the public about the serious flaws in the Mayo trials (Pauling, 1986). Even today the NCI lists the two supplement-bashing Mayo studies under the rubric of "High-Dose Vitamin C/Early Ascorbate-Only Trials" without any reference to the fact that they are scientifically irrelevant (cancer.gov; official site of NCI, accessed June 2013), giving you the erroneous impression that Cameron/Pauling's studies are invalid while the Mayo trials are valid -when the opposite is true.
... despite that even 21st century US government sponsored studies, almost exclusively authored by scientists affiliated with the NIH and the FDA, admitted to powerful vitamin benefits in cancer, by distinctly demonstrating that high dose vitamin C treatments has strong and selective cancer cell-killing action in cell culture mediums and decreased the growth of aggressive tumors in animal models, with the investigators of one of these studies commenting that "these findings give plausibility to i.v. [=intravenous] ascorbic acid in cancer treatment" (Chen, et al., 2005 & 2008) [explanation added].
... despite a quite detailed scientific understanding of the physiological mechanisms of how the potent benefits of vitamins from vitamin C therapy can come about in terms of cancer (Frei & Lawson, 2008).
... in spite of that other more current investigators (e.g., Ohno, et al., 2009) noted:
"[...] evidence from case studies has continued to mount that ascorbate therapy could be effective if the right protocols were used [...]." [emphasis added]
The "right protocols" for cancer encompass especially high dose intravenous vitamin C treatment.
Because we live in a culture where the propagation of half-truths by the dominant forces is an everyday event, very few people know of the sound evidence that debunked the hailed "evidence-based" Mayo studies (Hickey & Roberts, 2004).
Furthermore, the public deserves to know that Mayo Clinic's Charles G. Moertel, MD (1927-1994), was also the lead investigator of a government-funded human clinical trial of amygdalin -also referred to as laetrile or vitamin B 17, a compound (nitrilosides) found at high concentration in apricot seeds/apricot kernels- and its effects on cancer, conducted in the early 1980s (Moertel, et al., 1982).
Akin to Moertel's skewed cancer studies on the vitamin benefits from ascorbic acid (vitamin C), this laetrile study's "results do not support Moertel et. al.'s [anti-amygdalin] conclusion" (Krashen) pertaining to the value of amygdalin in cancer prevention and control, because the Moertel group did not follow the standard protocol of administration and, thus, was "set up to fail" (Moss), as both Stephen Krashen, PhD, and the cancer investigator Ralph W. Moss, PhD, had explained and documented (Krashen, 2009; Merola, 2014).
Moss, a former official at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, demonstrated irrefutably how the mainstream medical establishment, including government health agencies, are actively involved in the stifling and suppression of valid therapeutic modalities (or data thereof) outside the dogmatic dictum of corporate medicine (Merola, 2014; Moss, 2014), such as the remarkable cancer-controlling substance amygdalin or impressive vitamin benefits from nutritional supplement therapy.
These coercive, oppressive maneuvers of the commercialized medical orthodoxy (including the FDA, National Cancer Institute, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center) against threats to their bottom line and other selfish interests, such as from alternative cancer treatments, have persisted continuously to the present time (Carter, 1992; Horwin, 2001; Merola, 2010 & 2013).
Unsurprisingly, at numerous occasions, opponents of food supplements have used the reference to such unsound, invalid research, like these two so-called evidence-based studies denigrating vitamin benefits from ascorbic acid against cancer, as a validation to propagate the general notions that "supplements don't work" or that "there are no vitamin benefits".
If you study something in non-biological or otherwise misleading ways (e.g., too short of a study period, supplement doses too low, studying (very) ill people and extrapolating the results and conclusions onto healthy people, low compliance, flawed replication of previous studies, etc.), even if you resort to evidence-based research methodologies, you end up getting junk findings (Michels & Frei, 2013). Junk in, junk out. And junk research findings are prevalent in science, even in premium evidence-based medical investigations (e.g., Gøtzsche, 1989; Ioannidis, et al., 2010).
But in spite of this solid (but greatly ignored) evidence that Pauling was/is (mainly) right regarding the facts about vitamin C, Offit feels entitled and justified to resort to an ad hominem attack against the deceased dual Nobel laureate by referring to him as "arguably the world's greatest quack" (Offit, 7-June-2013).
The medical establishment considered Linus Pauling a giant of medical science, as long as he didn't step on their self-interests with his well-founded claims. But as soon as Pauling did, as with his non-orthodox propositions of vitamin benefits, fanatics of the medical industry declared him a quack. It is the medical orthodoxy's convenient, self-serving relegation of Pauling from penthouse to doghouse. Unsurprisingly, zealots of the medical industry, such as Offit, continue to keep up the unsound mockery of Pauling.
At this point it is of interest to note that at numerous occasions (Offit, June-2013), Offit cites an anti-supplement publication by Dan Hurley, whose misrepresentation of the actual scientific data I had discussed in a different article (see Scaremongering About Vitamin Side Effects: How Supplement Truths Get Distorted).
Gatekeepers of the medical industry (such as Offit and the mainstream news media) tend to welcome negative news about nutritional supplements uncritically, while displaying an inclination to dismiss and ignore positive research findings on supplement benefits (Goodwin & Tangum, 1998).
In other words...
Offit, and the anti-vitamin lobby in general, are not portraying the whole truth, they are giving you a half truth (that serves their own, and affiliated, interests),
... presented as if it were the whole truth.
But, rather than being "the whole truth", as the public is supposed to believe, the Jewish proverb postulates that "a half-truth" is nothing but "a whole lie".
(By the way, there are other arenas of modern medicine where only "a half-truth" is widely known. One such example is presented in my (e)book The Mammogram Myth: The Independent Investigation Of Mammography The Medical Profession Doesn't Want You To Know About, see Mammograms: Dangerous! Mammography Risks, Myths & Breast Cancer Facts).
"It is recognized that objectivity is difficult to foster in an environment where conflicts of interest exist." (Jonathan P.S. Knisely, MD & Louis Potters, MD)
Many people live under the impression (or illusion) that medical research is "objective". That you get "the real truth" from the most prestigious medical journals in the world.
The immense significance of how vested interests, or conflict-of-interests, in scientific research distort the truth about nutritional supplements (in their disfavor) has been demonstrated (Kemper & Hood, 2008).
Kathi J. Kemper, MD, and Kaylene L. Hood (Kemper & Hood, 2008) reviewed a one year's worth of issues from about a dozen medical journals -including some of the world's most prestigious publications, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), and the British Medical Journal (BMJ)- to evaluate the influence of pharmaceutical advertisements in those journals in relation to reports on dietary supplements.
Here's what they (Kemper & Hood, 2008) found:
Long ago, the relationship between the pharmaceutical-medical industry and medical journals had been described as a “marriage of convenience” (Moser, 1977).
Because conventional doctors rely on the information publicized in those allegedly elite medical journals, it is easy to recognize that, virtually unbeknownst to them, they can be misled and wrong in their perception of the TRUE value of vitamins and health supplements. And so can be the society at large.
As Kemper and Hood remark:
“[...] pharmaceutical advertising biases journals against non-drug therapies. […]. [...] most primary care clinicians subscribe to established and highly visible general medical journals; articles in these journals are frequently cited in professional practice guidelines and by the media to guide the general public.” (Kemper & Hood, 2008)[emphasis mine]
"To guide the general public"... like Paul A. Offit, MD, does with Killing Us Softly/Do You Believe In Magic.
Moreover, and as this study indicates, entities with conflicts-of-interest such as orthodox doctors (i.e., Dr. Paul Offit), representing the interests of the medical industry (i.e., "drug therapies", etc.), are more likely to offer you a slanted, one-sided perspective of nutritional supplements. And, this version of perception is likely going to be one of negativity in regard to supplements (as in Killing Us Softly).
In medical science, the truth-tweaking influence of conflict-of-interests is well established (not just regarding health supplements), yet members of the medical orthodoxy are often inclined to dismiss and ignore it (presumably because these are scientific facts that are not in their favor).
In an article entitled “Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption”, Marcia Angell, MD, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), explained that:
“After much unfavorable publicity, medical schools and professional organizations are beginning to talk about controlling conflicts of interest, but so far the response has been tepid. They consistently refer to “potential” conflicts of interest, as though that were different from the real thing, and about disclosing and “managing” them, not about prohibiting them. In short, there seems to be a desire to eliminate the smell of corruption, while keeping the money.” (Angell, 2009) [emphasis added]
Similarly, Michael E. Dean, PhD, writes in his award-winning book of 2004:
“[...], it is painfully obvious that science is biased, consumers of scientific information are biased, and science is routinely used to advance personal, political and economic agendas that have nothing to do with increasing the store of generalized knowledge.” (Dean, 2004) [emphasis added]
This supports the idea that you should not ignore this "story of corruption" (Angell, 2009). That is, the pivotal connection between conflict of interests and the falsification of the truth, if you want to get to the real truth about vitamin benefits and risks.
... the public at large will end up, as a result of this information control, with the (erroneous) perception that supplements are harmful and that there are no (or little) vitamin benefits.
Therefore, wouldn't it make sense to seriously question and be critical of the people and organizations promoting well-known "half-truths" (which some people would call progaganda or lies)?
Offit portrays the supplement industry in a negative manner as it prevented the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an organization Offit depicts positively, from regulating "dangerous" megadose vitamins (Offit, 2013; Offit, 8-June-2013).
Yet, once again, this is another "half-truth".
The FDA has a history of trying to restrict free public access to nutritional supplements. Not primarily because of an intent "to protect the public's health" but because of politics (Emord, 2008). The FDA is a captive of the medical industry, serving their interests (Emord, 2008 & Nov. 2010). The FDA had been caught more than once making false statements about the safety of nutritional supplements and censoring truthful information on vitamin benefits (Schauss, 2007; Emord, 2010), rather analogous to Offit's handling of data on nutritional supplements.
The establishment of the public perception that dietary supplements are "ineffective" and "harmful" by the medical establishment (with the assistance of government public health authorities) means ultimately that more customers will flock (back) to their profitable business of mainly treating health problems, away from the business of alternative medicine which is fundamentally about preventing health issues (i.e., maintaining health).
A widespread decline in the number of people confiding in the "alternative" health approach of reducing the odds of getting ill will also automatically create a greater number of sick people, increasing the customer base for the medical orthodoxy effortlessly.
"Nutritional dogma has blocked the use of nutrients as supplements for nearly forty years. [...]. The dogma is: (1) a balanced diet will obviate the need for supplements, (2) vitamins are only needed to cure vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy or pellagra, (3) any excess of vitamin over Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) is a waste and harmful. We now know these guides are misleading and wrong." (Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, 1917-2009, in 1987)
Do dietary supplements work?
Well, peculiarly, Offit fails to mentioned the much greater volume of relevant evidence that documented highly significant vitamin benefits regarding cancer, heart disease, and mortality (and a plethora of other conditions). His omission of that data, however, suggests an absence of such evidence to an unsuspecting reader.
But let's not forget that "half of the truth" since it receives relatively little news coverage, making it largely unknown.
Here, for instance, are some examples of remarkable vitamin benefits from supplements in regard to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality:
Most noteworthy, the study compared people who took no vitamin supplements, those who took "one-a-day vitamins" (low-potency multivitamin supplements), and those folks who consumed high-dose vitamins (vitamin E and C). The individuals who ingested low-dose supplements (one-a-day multiples), which are commonly taken, fared no better than the non-users of supplements. Therefore, the study corroborated the tremendous value of long-lasting megavitamin therapy (and the marked absence in value of an orthodox supplement regimen).
"Do You (Still) Believe In The Magic" (i.e., misinformation) of Paul Offit?
The existence of this relevant, substantial, scientific evidence on vitamin benefits, in juxtaposition of Offit's claim (backed by largely meaningless evidence) that "the data is clear: high doses of vitamins and supplements increase the risk of heart disease and cancer" (Offit, 7-June-2013) suggest that:
Modern medicine is using and putting value on the best type of evidence (such as randomized controlled studies) when it suits THEIR ideological paradigm (i.e., when the studies find negative findings on supplements).
Medical dogma takes PRECEDENCE over sound evidence (=the truth) to accommodate self-serving interests.
Follow facts, not dogmas.
Fact is, there are thousands of other genuinely relevant research studies that have documented significant, very impressive vitamin benefits from supplements in both the prevention and treatment of hundreds of afflictions and health conditions, as compiled in a vitamin guide (Gaby, 2011).
The long list includes vitamin B6 benefits, benefits of vitamin D, vitamin K benefits, health benefits of vitamin E, vitamin B12 benefits, selenium benefits, to marked outcomes with other mineral supplements, such as from taking calcium supplements, and with many other types of nutrients (Gaby, 2011).
In an interview, Alan R. Gaby, MD, explained that:
"People often say there’s not enough research [= on nutritional supplements]. One of the reasons I wrote "Nutritional Medicine" is to put all of the research in one place so that people will realize how much there is." [explanation & emphasis added]
And, most often, the significant vitamin benefits noted in the medical literature are obtained by the use of synthetic vitamins, rather than whole food supplements, because they tend to be studied most routinely in scientific trials.
Clearly, there is no question about the compelling benefits of supplements. But are concerns about the serious health risks of dietary supplements (such as side effects of dietary supplements) generally justified?
"The more efforts to silence, the more education gets out." (Andrew W. Saul, PhD)
You can "prove" just about any perspective if you arbitrarily select, acknowledge, and present the data that confirms your perspective while arbitrarily discrediting and disregarding anything that threatens your view.
To that effect, to (further) bolster his poorly founded anti-vitamin accusations, Offit described a number of "dramatic real-life stories" of people who got severely injured from vitamin use (Offit, June 2013 & 7-June-2013). Presumably, to demonstrate to the reader just how great a danger nutritional supplements are to the general public.
Ironically, the medical industry usually pooh-poohs such personal accounts as "anecdotal evidence", barring almost no scientific significance, when the countless "dramatic real-life stories" describe cases of vitamin BENEFITS. Now, with anecdotal evidence discrediting supplements ("dramatic real-life stories" of supplement INJURIES), it is supposed to be highly relevant (just because Offit positions it that way).
In other words...
Evidence loses or gains scientific significance and credibility based on the whims of conventional medicine.
The same double-standard is played out with the strategic reference to evidence-based studies. Offit cited a few "anti-vitamin" studies (albeit most of these investigations are flawed or misleading papers) qualifying for evidence-based research, such as meta-analyses (e.g., Bjelakovic, et al., 2004; Miller, et al., 2005) or randomized, controlled trials (e.g., NEJM, 1994; Omenn, et al., 1996), the latter considered the methodological pinnacle of evidence-based medicine, as ammunition against the general use of nutritional supplements.
Yet, other randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) on very impressive vitamin benefits (e.g., Canner, et al., 1986; Berge & Canner, 1991; Takamatsu, et al., 1995; Clark, et al., 1996; Fawzi, et al., 2004; Lee, et al., 2005), representing the types of supplements Offit claims are either very dangerous (at high doses) or have no health benefit (since Offit wants you to believe that only four types of supplements -calcium, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D- are scientifically validated), he conveniently omits to acknowledge, giving you the impression they don't exist or somehow "lost" their scientific importance.
You are supposed to ignore "dramatic real-life stories" of vitamin benefits (i.e., anecdotal evidence) or RCTs on vitamin benefits but strongly heed "dramatic real-life stories" and RCTs of supplement harm.
Apparently, the truth about food supplements is what Offit says
(=arbitrarily demonstrates) it is -not what the actual facts are.
Offit as the truth, rather than facts as the truth.
It is information management. It is information distortion. It is information control.
The end result?
The public is being misled by an unilaterally-presented subset of data, rather than being educated with the overall facts. Instead of getting the truth, you get propaganda.
“[...] before doctors [and the public at large] rush to condemn the weak evidence base underpinning these [alternative] therapies they should pause and consider the record of orthodox medicine.” (Lancet, Dec. 2000) [explanation & emphasis added]
Dubiously, what you never hear from anti-supplement zealots (or, if you do, only in conjunction with accompanying quibbles of denial) is that, in the US alone, the scientific evidence shows the proper consumption of allegedly highly regulated pharmaceutical medications kills over 100,000 people every single year, while extremely few people die annually from both properly and improperly taking highly unregulated nutritional supplements (Lazarou, et al., 1998; Leape, 2000; Starfield, 2000; Dean, et al, 2003; American Association of Poison Control Centers, 1983- 2008).
THAT is proof beyond any reasonable doubt of what is truly a MASSIVE danger to public health.
First be terrified of your traditional doctor, not your alternative medicine man/woman.
Therefore, to more accurately reflect the proper perspective of the actual reality, Offit's book should aptly be named "Killing Us Softly (With Alternative Medicine) Versus Killing Us Quickly & Massively (With Conventional Medicine)".
Also, Offit stated that "the dietary supplement industry is unregulated" (Offit, 7-June-2013). That is false. The supplement industry is regulated under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. Although, dietary supplements are poorly regulated, resulting in a market swamped with predominantly ineffective products. But is it good judgment to put a lot of effort in implementing tighter regulations for health products that, generally, are an extremely small public health risk compared to pharmaceutical drugs (and over-the-counter drugs)?
Offit remarked that "I learned that all therapies should be held to the same standard of proof [...] ." (Offit, June, 2013). What about proof of safety? What about taking the death toll, or the magnitude of harm of a therapy, as a most reasonable standard of proof of safety? Evidently, safety isn't a suitable "standard of proof" that should be applied to the toxic products and interventions of the medical industry.
Offit stated that "There's no such thing as alternative medicine. There's only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't." (Offit, 2013). The core message is, based on the content and titles of his book (i.e., "Do You Believe In Magic") and articles, that in reality it is primarily conventional medicine that "works", aside a few exceptions here and there coming out of the camp of alternative medicine (but there, findings of effectiveness are merely "due to the placebo response" [Offit, 2013]).
(By the way, traditionally and more often than not, the reference to the placebo effect suits the allopathic medical profession to dismiss anything that they don't understand how it works, or to dismiss an effective "alternative" healing method as inherently ineffective. This provides them also with the specious ammunition to, for instance, equate and deride regular supplement consumers as being absorbed in a vitamin myth.)
Here, once again, Offit utters a half-truth (i.e., a lie, per the aforementioned Jewish proverb). Although Offit claimed he carefully evaluated scientific studies (Offit, 2013), he conveniently forgets the myriad of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on many different health supplements (above and beyond the mere four nutrient supplements Offit gives scientific credit to), showing outstanding benefits. Therefore, Offit's anti-supplement works are anything but an accurate representation of the facts about vitamins.
According to Dr. Paul Offit, it is the purported high degree of effectiveness which makes conventional medicine "work" (Offit, 7-June-2013).
But what about safety?
If there is "medicine that doesn't work", meaning it is ineffective, what is the evidence that standard medicine causes an enormous amount of human damage? Evidence that conventional medicine only (supposedly) works in terms of effectiveness as it cannot be evidence that it works in terms of safety since the magnitude of harm inflicted on people by the medical profession constitutes one of the top leading causes of death and injury in both Europe and the US (Dean, et al., 2003; Gøtzsche, 2013)
If a medical system fails abysmally in terms of safety, would you consider it a system that "works"? Who then does it actually "work" for?
The actual fact that the proper administration of pharmaceutical drugs kills a mountain of people every year, compared to roughly an anthill from both the proper and improper consumption of "dangerous supplements" combined, is reasonable proof that traditional medicine does not work per a humane standard.
However, per the existing permissible standard of the medical profession (which is supported by government authorities), it (almost) always works for them... economically.
It isn't uncommon for businesses to do a "cost-benefit analysis" to discern whether their mode of operation is profitable ("works"), or not.
As the reigning "healthcare" player, wouldn't it make sense, from a purely ethical angle, for the medical officialdom to conduct a harm-benefit analysis? I'm not aware that corporate medicine has ever conducted such a comprehensive harm-benefit analysis, never mind a trustworthy one.
The medical orthodoxy's typical polished marketing and advertising efforts to promote and sell their lucrative products and interventions indicate that they believe their merchandise and procedures do more good than bad. So, these specious medical advertisements are a sign of some sort of self-assessed harm-benefit "analysis" by the medical empire.
The glaring absence of meaningful reliable quantifiable data about the harms caused by their glorified products -as one can see, for instance, in misleading mass media drug advertisements, or frequently in the medical literature in support of their "therapeutic" interventions (mammography is a good example of that, see my e-book "The Mammogram Myth")- reveals the systematic lack of legitimate objective science that is backing their business merchandise, at least as far as safety goes.
In terms of the management of chronic degenerative disease, the harm and carnage caused by commercialized medicine (excluding emergency medicine/trauma medicine) to the public would most probably greatly outperform the real benefits to them in a relevant independent harm-benefit analysis (i.e., not conducted by the medical enterprise) considering that the traditional disease-treating profession creates a medical holocaust year after year -which has been going on, practically unchanged, for decades. In other words, according to such a sound eligible harm-benefit analysis, standard medicine arguably does not work because the damages notably outshine the benefits.
Again, the actual reality in healthcare indicates that:
Medical dogma takes PRECENDENCE over sound evidence and patients' wellbeing (safety) to accommodate self-serving interests.
It's primarily about politics, not your health.
Yet, in his reports of misinformation (i.e., propaganda) Offit makes it appear as if nutritional supplements are a huge health problem with scaremongering statements and hype such as, "most people don't realise megavitamins can be unsafe. So why don't more people know this? And why haven't regulatory agencies sounded an alarm? The answer is predictable: money and politics" (Offit, 7-June-2013).
Well, I'd assume many or most people have the common sense understanding that anything (even water) "can be unsafe" if you take "too much" of it. But could it be that most people are not aware of the baseless allegation (=nonsense) that supplements are a big public health threat because there isn't much reliable, relevant, biological evidence supporting it? And, because it does not reflect the real-life experiences and personal observations of most people as many enjoy striking vitamin benefits? After all, people who commit suicide don't use "unsafe" nutritional supplements but routinely resort to "safe" pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs (American Association of Poison Control Centers, 1983-2008).
The really important questions everyone should ask are:
Asking and pursuing these questions will arguably lead you to the whole or real truth. A truth of "money and politics" involving the medical-pharmaceutical industry and government bodies, first and foremost.
You would think that if Paul Offit, MD, and the FDA are really seriously and honestly after protecting the health of the public, with Offit's publication of Killing Us Softly/Do You Believe In Magic and the FDA's censorship of truthful information on vitamin benefits and supplement safety and the agency's suppressive activities against the supplement industry, they would focus on combating in healthcare whatever does the greatest harm to people. Namely, the workings of conventional medicine not alternative unconventional medicine (such as the modality with nutritional supplements).
The fact that they don't is reasonable proof that their anti-supplement efforts have everything to do with politics, not with what is the right thing to do.
As Jonathan W. Emord, Esq., a constitutional lawyer, pointed out:
"The FDA yawns broadly when a drug company deceives the public, resulting in widespread injury or even death, but it attacks with a vengeance little supplement companies that mention the therapeutic effects of their products in the market." (Passwater, 2011)
The age-old trick to point the finger to a comparatively much less significant problem (or "enemy") is a way of keeping the (hopefully) unsuspecting public distracted from the real perpetrators causing highly significant damage. Some people call this deception. (By the way, this is also a tactic routinely employed by other private corporate interests, besides those of the medical profession, in the political arena [e.g., Jaeger, 2010].)
Thus, Offit's anti-supplement publications are little more than an exercise in sensationalism and fearmongering, making a mountain out of a molehill, via misleading hype (cleverly disguised as sound science). Essentially, they are smear campaigns against nutritional supplements and the evidence of vitamin benefits.
Other common frames of anti-supplement bias include the use of derogatory language, such as referring to a large percentage of people who regularly consume nutritional supplements as being afflicted by "vitamania".
Keep on the outlook for more of these types of misleading shenanigans from mouthpieces of the gigantic business of corporate medicine as the supplement and alternative health industries continue to grow. Thus, becoming steadily a greater competitor of organized allopathy, threatening their enormous profits.
Just as the dominant medical culture and the mainstream media conglomerate use their influence to raise broad public attention preferentially on negative findings about nutritional supplements (while marginalizing positive findings of vitamin benefits), this anti-supplement cartel, conversely, use their immense power to preferentially hide from the public negative findings on pharmaceutical drugs and other medical interventions and services (while oftentimes exaggerating the successes of their "advanced" therapies and interventions [e.g., just look at the general dismal failure of "the war on cancer"]).
As scientific data had revealed, whenever vested interests (=self-interests) are involved, the more likely it is that the research findings are incorrect, thus public health policies and expert opinions are based on dogma, rather than sound science, whereby the perogative tends to shift to primarily serving special private interests (e.g., the medical profession), rather than you -the public.
The same dishonest maneuvers to denounce vitamin benefits and exaggerate supplement dangers, as Offit had resorted to, have been utilized for a very long time by stout enthusiasts of the medical establishment. In 1986, for example, the holistic doctor Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, (1917-2009) noted:
"[...] [orthodox medical] traditionalists have been the most aggressive critics of mega-vitamin therapy, using every means possible including misrepresentation, selective literature reviews and promulgation of vitamin toxicities which do not exist." (Hoffer, 1986) [explanation added]
In 2011 the author Andrew Saul, PhD, summarized the recurring trend of attacking well-founded vitamin safety and well-established vitamin benefits:
“Well, you can say one thing for vitamin critics: at least they are consistent. Consistently wrong, but consistent.”
“The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803–1882, Writer & Philosopher)
I suspect that only those people with a lack of proper knowledge about vitamin benefits and supplement safety, or the truly gullible, or the fervent (irrational) defenders of the reigning status quo of healthcare will fall for Offit's largely unsubstantiated anti-supplement charade.
Always keep this in mind (and act accordingly)...
Any person (or publication) who advocates "Don't Take Your Vitamins" is creating, either willfully or by ignorance, ...
> the erroneous public perception <
...that there are practically no vitamin benefits and/or that nutritional supplements are very dangerous while...
> the actual facts <
... show practically the exact opposite.
Instead of the facts about dietary supplements, it is an incorrect public perception on nutritional supplements (regarding vitamin benefits and supplement safety)...
... a perception that goes against the public's best own interests.
(Originally published: ca. June-2013 | This is an updated version)
Recommended next page(s):
Article Index On The Politics Of Nutritional Supplements
-How You Get Deceived