Tag Archives: Vitamin D

New supplement best for preventing bone loss, says study

Churnalism. Don’t you just love it? The repetition of self-serving claims from press releases into press as if they were facts. Wikipedia calls this “fact-washing”.

WDDTY said they would not do this. It’s as true as their principled statement that they would never take paid advertising.

So it’s no surprise to see a tweet from WDDTY:

new-supplement

We know WDDTY well enough by now to be able to read the subtext. A new supplement (i.e. made by the whiter-than-snow big-pharma-suppressed all-natural supplement world) is superior to the current drugs.

And this is clear too in the story they link:

A new nutritional supplement is better than calcium and vitamin D for protecting the bones in older women, a new study has concluded.

There you have it: the supplement is better than the drug calcium and vitamin D. Except – wait – that’s a supplement too isn’t it? How can this be? Ah yes: calcium and vitamin D, usually branded Adcal or Calcichew, is made by big pharma.

KoACT is a calcium-collagen chelate—which means the two compounds are bound together—that prevents bone loss, and so reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Well that’s plausible enough, but it rather runs against the narrative as the calcium-collagen chelate is produced by a pharmaceutical manufacturing process; the supplement is a form that does not actually exist in nature.

It’s been tested for a year on 39 older women, who were given either KoACT or calcium and vitamin D supplements. Women in the KoACT group had a 1.23 per cent loss in bone mineral density at the end of the 12 months trial, while those taking the supplements experienced a 3.75 per cent loss.

N=39 is a very small study. The difference in bone loss could be significant, or it might not.

Researchers from Florida State University, who carried out the study, say the results are “crucial” for women, and especially for those who have reached the early stages of menopause when bone loss can be rapid.

Do they indeed? Or is it, perhaps, that these words were planted in their mouths by someone?

You know what’s coming. You will have guessed the obvious right from the outset. But I won’t spoil your pleasure yet.

KoACT website: www.koact.net

(Source: Journal of Medicinal Food, 2014; 141014082953002).

Want to see that source? You bet. The journal link is  doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.0100 and it’s also summarised in Science Daily.

The Science Daily coverage is more comprehensive, giving a more neutral overview and not including claims that the results are “crucial” but instead the much more plausible:

Arjmandi acknowledged he was “pleasantly surprised” by the outcomes and hopes that the supplement will be used in the future as a way to prevent bone density loss.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. There, at the bottom of Science Daily’s article is the one piece of genuinely crucial information, the essential fact omitted from WDDTY which necessarily colours any interpretation of this small, preliminary study:

Arjmandi’s study was funded by AIDP, Inc.

And AIDP Inc. is, of course, the manufacturer of the supplement.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that a calcium/collagen chelate is more effective for preventing bone loss than calcium and vitamin D?

Because the evidence to date is one rather small study funded by the manufacturer.

Sunshine could reduce severity of asthma attacks

The activity level of the @_wddty Twitter account is pretty low, considering the volume of bullshit McTaggart and her magazine generate, but today there was a tweet which piqued the interest:

asthma

The content of the News item linked is:

Vitamin D—the ‘sunshine vitamin’—may help reduce the worst affects (sic) of asthma. Sufferers should do more sunbathing or take supplements, say researchers.

Asthmatic s with more severe symptoms tend to have low levels of vitamin D, while those with high levels are able to control their symptoms better. Researchers at King’s College London say the connection between levels of the vitamin and severity of symptoms is “quite striking”.

In laboratory tests with blood samples, the researchers saw that the vitamin was able to lower levels of interleukin-17, a chemical that helps fight off infection. However, in asthmatics the chemical is in constant over-ride, causing the typical symptoms of inflamed, swollen and narrowed airways.

The researchers plan to carry out clinical trials to establish if the vitamin can ease an asthma attack.

(Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2013; published online, May 17, 2013).

This should be easy to check, but as usual WDDTY use a non-standard reference format to give the full feel of “referenciness” without inviting tiresome fact-checking.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is free online. The most likely candidate is “Enhanced production of IL-17A in patients with severe asthma is inhibited by 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in a glucocorticoid-independent fashion

The conclusion of this paper is:

Patients with severe asthma exhibit increased levels of TH17 cytokines, which are not inhibited by steroids. 1,25(OH)2D3 inhibits TH17 cytokine production in all patients studied, irrespective of their clinical responsiveness to steroids, identifying novel steroid-enhancing properties of vitamin D in asthmatic patients.

So did “researchers” say that “asthma sufferers should do more sunbathing or take a supplement”?

No.

They said that patients with severe asthma tended to have low levels of a vitamin D marker in their blood. At no point in the paper are either sunbathing or supplements mentioned. The paper does not promote therapeutic use of vitamin D, but rather notes that asthma severity may be increased in patients with low levels of vitamin D. It certainly does not suggest that vitamin D might be any kind of replacement for science-based medicine, quite the opposite.

Once again, even when a study finding is broadly ideologically consonant, WDDTY are unable to resist the temptation to put words in the authors’ mouths.

100 ways to live to 100: Your healthy children

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your healthy children

It’s not clear how your children’s health could help you live to 100, though if you follow WDDTY’s anti-vaccine advice you certainly need them to be as healthy as possible to minimise the chance of death or permanent harm from vaccine preventable disease.

41 Get fit before you conceive

Work with a doctor experienced in preconception nutrition who will check your nutritional status and help you correct any deficiencies, hidden infections, heavy-metal toxic overload and the like, all of which can contribute to infertility and pregnancy loss. Contact Foresight for their complete programme of preconceptual care (www.foresight-preconception.org.uk). The organization reports a 90 per cent success rate of healthy babies born to the nearly 1,600 couples who completed the full Foresight programme, many with a previous history of lost pregnancy or infertility.

This is  a blatant sales pitch. Foresight’s website scores easily 8 ducks on the Quackometer – anything inspired by a “psychiatrist-with-vision” can’t score less!

The chances of anyone living a normal middle-class British lifestyle having “heavy metal toxic overload” are vanishingly small. Unless you ask a chelation quack like Dr. John Mansfield, a member of the WDDTY editorial panel. And most British women conceive without any special measures, so don’t throw your money down the drain until you’ve at least satisfied yourself you have a problem – and if that is the case, be sure to consult only a doctor who is registered and licensed to practice in the UK. The GMC has an online register which is a tad cumbersome but allows you to check for a name and verify that if, say, they qualified before 1976 at Guy’s, they are not licensed to practice in the UK.

In short: the heading is misleading. WDDTY are promoting quackery before conception. Avoid like the plague.

42 If you are pregnant, minimize your exposure to prenatal tests like ultrasound scans

Scans have been linked to low birth weights, delayed speech and dyslexia. Unless a problem is suspected, wait till after your baby is born to take its picture

“Scans have been linked” is classic WDDTY weasel words. Of course women with red flags for suspected problems will be referred for scans to see if the baby is developing normally. That doesn’t mean the scan has any effect on development.

Ultrasound is safe, cheap, and reassuring especially to the anxious primagravida. It can also pick up serious defects such as cleft lip and palate and prepare parents for informed choices at an early stage.

Some forms of diagnostics lead to many false positives and undesirable outcomes. Antenatal ultrasound is not one of these. It is an entirely reasonable check for developmental abnormalities, which is why virtually every doctor and midwife recommends it.

43 Breastfeed

Give your child this lifelong gift and breastfeed for as long as possible—at least one year, according to the WHO. In addition to providing the perfect food and the full complement of essential fatty acids, for your child, it also protects against allergies and helps improve vision and IQ. Resist the suggestions of experts to add supplemental feeds unless something is clearly wrong. The baby is usually getting enough if allowed to feed on demand.

Can anybody name the doctors who “don’t tell you” this? It’s entirely mainstream. Unfortunately, it is also so deeply embedded in the middle-class psyche that women who find they can’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, may feel bullied and inadequate (warning: Daily Mail). This is not just tabloid hysteria.

44 Get informed about vaccination

There’s no such thing as a totally safe vaccine; official organizations like the US National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tacitly acknowledge that all vaccines have the potential to kill or cause serious harm. Assess every last jab with the following questions: How necessary is this vaccine? How effective? How safe? Especially question vaccinations against illnesses that are rare or generally not life-threatening in healthy, well-nourished children. This includes the MMR (measles–mumps–rubella), cervical cancer, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and meningitis C vaccines.

Informed consent is good, as long as the information is reliable. WDDTY’s information on vaccines is grossly unreliable. Its claims for harm are massively inflated, its anti-vaccination agenda was established from the very outset and no story about vaccines has ever been published in any edition of WDDTY, as far as we can tell, which is accurate, positive, or correctly reflects the balance of risk and harm. A recent story claimed that “Andrew Wakefield was right”. He wasn’t. A story in this very issue repeated the vicious anti-vaccine lie that HPV vaccine has seriously harmed 1,700 girls. It hasn’t.

The best source for accurate information about vaccines is, and always has been, your family doctor. The implication that doctors claim vaccines are 100% safe or 100% effective is false, official documents have never supported this. they are, however, extremely safe and at least very effective.

Measles, pertussis (whooping-cough), Hib and other vaccine-preventable disease are killers. The anti-vaccine agenda is denialism at its most selfish, relying on others taking the tiny risk to provide the herd immunity that allows anti-vaccinationists to claim that vaccine preventable diseases are rare anyway.

45 Suspect allergies first

If your child has any chronic problems like earache, eczema, bowel problems or hyperactivity, suspect food/chemical allergies, and get them identified and treated.

Allergies are more common and more diverse than many parents think, and less common and less diverse than WDDTY would have you believe. If your child has a chronic health problem there are three very important things to remember:

  1. Intolerance is not allergy.
  2. Many children grow out of both intolerance and allergy.
  3. Avoid any allergy diagnostic services that claim to find yeast overgrowth, leaky gut and the like, and instead ask your GP for a referral to the local NHS allergy clinic.

Allergies, and chronic disease generally, are fertile hunting ground for quacks. Just look at the back pages of WDDTY.

46 Avoid plastic toys containing phthalates

These chemicals have clear evidence of causing ‘feminization’ and abnormal gonadal development in boys.

So all the boys who have ever played with Action Man are eunuchs? Get real. But don’t worry, the problematic pthalates have been banned from toys since the end of last century.

47 Be wary of giving your child unnecessary chemicals and drugs like antibiotics for benign conditions

Antibiotics have been linked to childhood diabetes; cold and flu medications can be deadly in small children; and steroids are responsible for many paediatric deaths. Avoid medications like salbuterol for asthma—it doesn’t work and can make the condition worse.

Dangerous nonsense. The basis on which WDDTY claims that cold medications are deadly is primarily evidence that you should only use the dose and type of medicine indicated for a child of the correct age; the adverse effects tend to be overdoses from giving infants doses designed for older children or even adults. Accidental and deliberate overdoses are both included.

WDDTY’s long-standing agenda against antibiotics is more puzzling: as a class of drugs, antibiotics have saved more lives than any other except perhaps vaccines. Oh, wait…

Past stories indicate that WDDTY believe you should allow your children to suffer ruptured eardrums rather than give them antibiotics for ear infections. Because natural. This may qualify as child abuse.

48 Avoid Ritalin and other drugs for hyperactivity

They can increase cardiovascular risk and trigger new psychiatric symptoms plus sudden death. If your kids are hyperactive, suspect sugar or processed foods. Artificial colours like tartrazine used in juice drinks or ‘squashes’ and salicylate foods can all cause hyperactivity and attention deficit.

Ritalin was never as widely used in the UK as in the US (where drugs are marketed direct to patients). NICE maintains a useful database of evidence. And this is what an evidence-based discussion might look like. Do you see how it includes both risks and benefits, unlike WDDTY?

In the UK, Ritalin is used only for serious cases, not for self-diagnosed or questionable diagnoses. As usual, it’s safe to say that your doctor is probably better informed on the risk / benefit balance for your child than some shrill anti-medicine harridan.

49 Avoid toothpastes with fluoride, and filter your water if it’s fluoridated

High levels of fluoride in drinking water can dramatically lower IQ in children, say Harvard scientists—enough to cause learning difficulties in children who already have lowish IQ.26

Reference 26: Environ Health Perspect, 2012; 120: 1362–8  Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Choi AL, Sun G, Zhang Y, Grandjean P.

And by high levels, they mean levels dramatically above the safe limits in drinking water. No water company adds these levels of fluoride.

It’s astonishing that as we approach the half-centenary of Dr. Strangelove, cranks are still repeating Major T. J. “King” Kong’s fulmination against fluoridation of water. The provable effect is a reduction in dental caries. And that’s it.

As always in medicine, anything given to healthy patients is subject to much more scrutiny than a drug given to the sick. Vaccines are another example. The evidence of safety has to be much more robust than for , say, a new antibiotic, because the risks of side-effects are offset only by potential benefits. Fluoridation of water (and toothpaste) has been studied intensely for a long time. There is no credible evidence of harm. Fluoridation is safe.

There is no credible reason at all to avoid fluoridated toothpaste. It might be wise not to snack on it, though.

50 Throw kids outdoors

Most infants and toddlers have low levels of vitamin D, some with levels below those needed to maintain and grow healthy bones.27 One school of thought maintains that by ‘protecting’ children against exposure to dirt and germs, we are inadvertently destroying their immune system’s ability to respond appropriately to infection and other stimuli. Diseases like eczema are far less prevalent in children who live in less sanitized conditions like farms and rural communities.28

Reference 27: Pediatrics, 2010; 125: 627–32 Adherence to vitamin D recommendations among US infants. Perrine CG, Sharma AJ, Jefferds ME, Serdula MK, Scanlon KS.

Reference 28: Clin Exp Allergy, 1999; 29: 28–34 Prevalence of hay fever and allergic sensitization in farmer’s children and their peers living in the same rural community. SCARPOL team. Swiss Study on Childhood Allergy and Respiratory Symptoms with Respect to Air Pollution. Braun-Fahrländer C, Gassner M, Grize L, Neu U, Sennhauser FH, Varonier HS, Vuille JC, Wüthrich B.

The idea that being in the outdoors is good for you is plausible and uncontroversial. WDDTY’s obsession with vitamin D, the idea that sunlight is “natural” and so “safe”, and their bizarre agenda against sunscreen, combine to make nonsense out of sense.

Australia has one of the best developed networks for surveillance of skin cancer. Guess what? Rural Victorians (those who get “thrown outdoors”) are 24% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma.

So even when WDDTY advice has “truthinessW”, it turns out to be questionable and potentially dangerous, because WDDTY cares only about what WDDTY cares about, whereas medical advice usually cares about everything.

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100 ways to live to 100: Your best supplements

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your best supplements

Supplements are the “gateway drug” of the SCAM industry. They skirt the boundaries of legitimacy, alluding to incredible claims that are never explicitly made in the adverts – relying instead on extraordinary testimonials and sciencey-sounding bullshit in alternative magazines like WDDTY. Most of the WDDTY editorial panel appear to profit from selling supplements, and this is also a profitable sideline for homeopaths, chiropractors and other quacks.

Unless you live on a farm, grow all your own organic vegetables and have access to free-range meat, it’s almost certain you have vitamin deficiencies even on the best of diets. Ideally, get yourself tested by a knowledgeable nutritionist to determine which nutrients you need or aren’t getting from your food, and customize your supplement programme accordingly.

This is a blatant sales pitch. There is no good evidence that organic produce is significantly more nutritious than equivalent intensively farmed produce, there is a robust consensus that most people with a healthy balanced diet do not need supplements, and SCAM propagandists are in total denial regarding the rather obvious fact that routine supplementation is medication by any definition, and many of the largest supplement manufacturers are also pharmaceutical companies.

Whatever your political slant, you’ll find an ideologically consonant source telling you that supplements are a waste of money. Daily Mirror, Guardian, Telegraph,  Huffington Post, even the Daily Mail. The claim that the human body has evolved such that even the highly nutritious and enriched modern diet is routinely deficient in large numbers of essential nutrients is implausible, and the promotion of this idea is evidence of the propaganda machine that underpins the immensely profitable supplement industry.

And if your diet is deficient in essential nutrients, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to fix your diet?

The very last person you should consult is a “nutritionist”. Has the public learned nothing from Gillian McKeithW, the noted celebrity copromnancer and holder, like Ben GoldacreW’s cat, of a worthless fake “doctorate” form a worthless fake “health college”? Nutritionists are unregulated, may be untrained or (worse) trained in batshit crazy doctrines with no basis in reality, and their main source of income may well be selling the very supplements they recommend.

21 Choose a good quality multivitamin/mineral supplement

Choose a supplement from a reputable brand. If you can’t find one to your liking, take the nutrients individually.

What constitutes a reputable brand? NBTY, formerly Nature’s Bounty, is a $3bn corporate conglomerate; it owns Holland & Barrett and is owned in turn by the Carlyle GroupW. Centrum is owned by Pfizer. Seven Seas is owned by Merck.

22 Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D

About a third of the general population is vitamin D-deficient. The vitamin offers natural protection against most cancers and heart disease, and can also boost immunity and vascular function. People who regularly supplement with vitamin D increase their longevity by 7 per cent. The body naturally produces it when exposed to sunlight—just 5 to 15 minutes of sunshine a day between 10am and 3pm, without sunscreen, is about enough to do the job.20 Otherwise, supplement with 600–1,000 IU vitamin D/day (400–1,000 IU/ day for those aged 18 and under).

Reference 20: Am J Clin Nutr, 2004; 80: 1678S–88S  Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Holick MF.

Vitamin D is the new vitamin C. The same inflated claims, the same mega dosage recommendations from the same industry lobby groups (e.g. the “Vitamin D council”).

The evidence that adequate vitamin D is important, is pretty solid. The evidence that most people are deficient, not so much. For example, it has been found that the apparent deficiency of vitamin D in African-Americans is an artifact of an evolutionary adaptation; the amount of bioavailable vitamin D is much higher than blood tests suggested.

It is likely that modest supplementation would benefit older people, especially postmenopausal women, though there are potential disbenefits and  some of the claims are shown to be false.

More research is needed. The supplement industry instead spends more money on marketing.

23 Make antioxidants the mainstay of your supplement programme

To minimize damage from free radicals, the toxic byproducts of your body’s metabolism, take adequate daily levels of vitamin A (up to 25,000 IU as beta-carotene or 10,000 IU as retinol), 1–3 g of vitamin E (tocotrienols, up to 600 IU), zinc (10–50 mg), selenium (200 mcg) and vitamin C (1–3 g). And take a good B-complex supplement containing at least 50 mg of thiamine and riboflavin, and 50 mcg of B12.

It’s astonishing that the human race has evolved a metabolism that s incapable of surviving without industrially refined supplements, especially since the availability of these supplements only goes back two or three generations.

Before necking bottles of beta-CaroteneW, it’s as well to be aware that it may increase the risk of prostate cancer, intracerebral hemorrhage, and cardiovascular and total mortality in people who smoke cigarettes or have a history of high-level exposure to asbestos (source).

Once again, a normal healthy balanced diet should contain all the nutrients you need unless you are assessed as deficient by a competent medical professional (i.e. not a nutritionist).

24 Don’t forget magnesium (200–400 g/day) and chromium (100 mcg/day)

According to a large-scale study by the renowned British lab testing service Biolab (see #15), people become deficient in both minerals as they age, and both are necessary for heart health. Magnesium is also essential for bone health and more absorbable than calcium supplements.

Biolab is mainly “renowned” as a lab which offers dodgy diagnostics alongside proper ones and refers people to half the editorial board of WDDTY for treatment of the non-existent conditions they thus diagnose.

NHS Choices seems to think that magnesium and chromium are both widely present in the diet, with no supplementation necessary. The difference may be explained by the fact that NHS Choices is not selling diagnostic tests to allow its referred physicians to profit by selling you the supplement. But that would be conspiracist thinking, and we should probably leave that to WDDTY.

25 Take good-guy bacteria

Invest in a quality probiotic, which includes lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and non-disease causing strains of Escherichia coli and streptococci.

I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Probiotics have been tested on a long list of diseases and conditions, and it appears that a scientific consensus is approaching for the use of certain probiotics for lactose intolerance and rotavirus diarrhea. Claims related to these benefits may be the first to be accepted in many jurisdictions. Before other claims are approved, manufacturers will have to invest considerable time and money to obtain data to show the efficacy and safety of their probiotic product. The data and documentation required to obtain a label health claim will be different in different jurisdictions because of differences in legislation. These discrepancies will add to the challenges faced by probiotics producers and consumers. – J. Nutr. June 2008 vol. 138 no. 6 1250S-1254S The Evidence to Support Health Claims for Probiotics

That’s probably why the Mayo Clinic says that “You don’t necessarily need probiotics — a type of “good” bacteria — to be healthy”.

The probiotic industry is also huge. Major manufacturers are Danone (a multi-billion-Euro French multinational) and the Japanese Yakult corporation. Yakult submitted a request for marketing authorisation, the result of which was:

The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota and maintenance of the upper respiratory tract defence against pathogens by maintaining immune defences.

Still, at least Yakult is actually paying for some research, albeit that it has precisely the same sources of bias as any other industry funded research, and still doesn’t support the claims they want to make.

Supplements. Because natural

Natural vitamins being crushed from fresh fruit by Fairtrade villagers. Or... not.
Natural vitamins being crushed from fresh organically grown fruit by Fairtrade villagers. Or… not.

WDDTY want us to believe that supplements are better than drugs because they are natural.

Is that true?

First up, rejecting “big pharma” puts you in the grips of “big herba” – and if you dig beneath the skin, you find that they are not only similar, they are often one and the same.

Second, you cannot be confident that your supplement contains what it says on the label. A random sample of 44 supplements found one in three contained none of the claimed ingredient, and many of the others contained fillers and adulterants.

Third, you never know what else is included free!pesticides, for example, and heavy metals. Granted these are usually within accepted safe levels – but the same applies for the non-organic produce that we’re told is full of “toxins” such as, you know, pesticides and heavy metals.

Fourth, the more you seek to escape “big whoever”, the worse the problem seems to get. Unlicensed products have virtually no safeguards. Continue reading Supplements. Because natural