The fading allure of vitamins


“My love affair with vitamins and supplements is over: With a few exceptions — stay tuned — I’m tossing them out.

Things started going south for this romance 13 years ago when a Finnish study of 29,000 male smokers showed a higher rate of lung cancer in men who took beta-carotene and vitamin E and, more shockingly, found that those who took beta-carotene had an 8 percent higher risk of death from all causes. Two years later, an American study reported similar findings for beta-carotene.

I’ve never been a smoker, but a red flag is a red flag. Out went the beta-carotene.

Then came the bad news on vitamin E, for which I had had high hopes as a general disease-preventer. A 2004 analysis by Dr. Edgar R. Miller, of Johns Hopkins University, found an increase in deaths from all causes in people taking more than 400 International Units a day of vitamin E. In 2005, the Women’s Health Study of nearly 40,000 healthy women showed 600 international units of vitamin E taken every other day provided no overall benefit for heart disease or cancer.

Out went the vitamin E.

Along the way, I tossed my echinacea, which I once swore by for preventing or shortening the duration of colds. (Never underestimate the placebo effect!) Though proponents still contend the studies are flawed, I now believe the debunkers — among them the researchers who published a major study in 2005 in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that echinacea has no effect on colds.

Did I mention vitamin C? Oh, how I wanted to believe this famous antioxidant would keep me from getting cancer and all those colds! But despite numerous studies, “we haven’t been able to show a benefit,” Miller said.

The latest disillusionment came in February with a


~ by searching4alpha on May 15, 2007.

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