Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vitamin pills just make you fat

So what happens if you take 3000 vitamin supplements over five months? Following the experience of Time journalist John Cloud, precious little.

Cloud experimented on himself by following a regimen of vitamin pills, suggested to him by a vitamin company in the US. He took 22 pills a day, as well as protein bars and psyllium fibre.

His doctor checked him out before and after his experiment. The only noticeable effect was that his vitamin D levels had increased, and so had his girth - by almost five kilograms.

His experiment has inspired mixed reactions in the scientific and business community in Australia, where vitamins are a multimillion-dollar industry.

Sydney University associate professor in human nutrition, Samir Samman, said the largest body of evidence on vitamin use showed their efficacy was questionable.

He pointed to clinical trials of people suffering from cardiovascular disease who were given vitamins A, E, and C, beta-carotene and selenium. "The first really important finding was that these made no effect - that there was no improvement in people taking large amounts of vitamins in relation to cardiovascular disease," Professor Samman said.

"The statistics also showed that large doses of vitamins actually have a small, but statistically significent, increase in mortality for these patients."

He said Cloud's experiment came to similar conclusions as other academic research into the efficacy of vitamins. "You find sporadic bits of information promoting this, or saying that this is beneficial if you are being treated for a condition," he said. "But if people are otherwise healthy, and adequately nourished, then why are they taking additional supplements?"

Australian Medical Association chairman of the council of general practice, Brian Morton praised Cloud's experiment. "It may not stand up to a class one evidence test but it is not a bad way of monitoring how effective supplements are for you," Dr Morton said.

"I would suggest talking to your GP before you start taking supplements, but if you are going to do it yourself - jot down why you are doing it and what you want to get better. Buy enough for a month and then see if you are any better."

Dr Morton said that he rarely suggests vitamins to his patients, unless they are suffering from a serious illness. "If for example, a patient has been treated for cancer, and their appetite and vitamin intake is down because of all those awful side effects, I will suggest a multi-vitamin.

"But, otherwise, you should not take them without good reason. Most Australians have the problem that their diet has an excess, not a deficiency, of vitamins."

Blackmores director of education, Pam Stone, who is also a naturopath, agreed that supplements had to be taken in consultation with a doctor or pharmacist.

But she said it was wrong to assume from Cloud's experiment that vitamin supplements had no use. "It comes down to people taking responsibility for their health and well-being, and looking after their diet and overall lifestyle," Ms Stone said.

"You need five serves of vegetables every day, and you can't expect that a multivitamin will [replace] that. "We don't encourage people to indiscriminately self-select supplements. They need advice from a trusted healthcare professional," she said.


Study: Heart attacks hit smokers younger

The effect is a large one so there are good grounds for seeing the cause-effect relationship suggested

Smokers tend to suffer heart attacksyears earlier than non-smokers, suggests a new study from Michigan.

“Individuals who smoke are much more likely to have a heart attack, and will present with a heart attack a decade or more earlier,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a cardiologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

The findings, he said, also show that “you could have a heart attack in the absence of other risk factors if you smoke.”

Researchers led by Dr. Michael Howe from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor studied about 3,600 people who were hospitalized with a heart attack or unstable angina — pain caused by low blood flow to the heart that is often a precursor to a heart attack.

One-quarter of the patients were current smokers. And on average, they were younger with fewer health problems than non-smokers with heart trouble.

Non-smoking men were 64 years old at hospital admission, on average, compared to 55 for male smokers. For female heart patients, average ages were 70 for non-smokers and 57 for smokers.

Smokers were less likely to have other health problems that are linked to heart risks, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

That and their younger age explained why researchers also found that people who lit up were less likely to die in the six months following an attack than non-smokers.

That “smoker’s paradox” — the idea that smokers who have a heart attack have better outcomes, including a lower risk of death, than non-smokers — didn’t last. The difference in death over the next six months — five percent in male non-smokers, versus three percent in male smokers, and eight and six percent in female non-smokers and smokers, respectively — was explained by age and other risk factors.

Fonarow said the findings are just one more example of the heart dangers posed by smoking, but emphasized that kicking the habit can erase those extra risks. “It’s never too late to quit, and the benefits are very early,” he told Reuters Health.

“Even within a few days of stopping smoking, there is a reduction in (heart) risk. As time goes by, within one to two years much of that risk is gone for heart attacks,” he added. “From a coronary risk standpoint, there is an immediate benefit and that continues to extend over time.”

The findings, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, also showed that female smokers were more likely than male smokers to have another heart attack or other heart problems in the next few months after the initial attack or angina.

“The real key messages are that smoking is a tremendous risk factor for having acute coronary events (earlier)… and that these risks may be even greater in women than in men,” Fonarow said.


No comments: