WHAT DOCTORS DON'T TELL YOU - E-NEWS BROADCAST No.34 - 08 May 03
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VITAMINS: Is this the end of nutrition in Europe (and what we can all still
do to stop this happening)
The British media has been enjoying a feeding frenzy over a report that
suggests "minerals and vitamins can cause cancer and liver damage" (The
Times), that people are "poisoning themselves" (Sunday Times), and that
their health could be "irreversibly damaged" (Daily Telegraph).
The report and the ensuing press articles come at an ideal time for the
pharmaceutical industry - just when the EU is determining safe levels of
vitamins to be sold over-the-counter to consumers. Safe upper levels will
be incorporated into a directive that will restrict the sale of vitamins and
other nutrients throughout the EU in two years' time.
The report, from the UK Food Standards Agency, and the press coverage that
followed will between them probably sound the death knell for the
nutritional industry in Britain and beyond. Success in restricting vitamin
sales in Europe will be followed by a fresh attempt from the pharmaceutical
lobby to reintroduce tighter controls in the USA.
The frenzy has been such that high-dose vitamins have already been found
guilty, and, without further delay, the body of nutritional medicine was
hanged at 6am GMT yesterday (8 May).
You might be wondering whether you are indeed putting your life at
considerable risk by taking vitamins beyond the Recommended Daily Allowance
(RDA), and whether you are about to succumb to cancer and liver damage.
It's always worth going back to primary sources to give an intelligent
answer. The FSA report was based on a detailed, 350-page study from the
Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EGVM). Leaving aside the hysterical,
but anticipated, misreadings of British journalists (sadly, their role is
vital in this appalling crime against health maintenance), let's restrict
ourselves to the reports of the FSA and the EGVM.
There's no doubt that journalists have taken their lead from the FSA, who
have taken an extremely 'tabloid' slant on the EGVM study.
In the first place, the claim that "vitamins and minerals can cause cancer"
is a statement restricted to the over-use of chromium, in the form of
chromium picolinate, which is available in stores at levels up to 0.6mg.
The FSA states that it "may have the potential to cause cancer". The EGVM
is aware of two cases where the patient died from severe kidney and liver
damage after ingesting 7.5 mg regularly, although no cases of cancer came to
light. No reactions were reported in people who took up to 1 mg a day for
64 weeks, according to one study.
The FSA reports that doses above 1000 mg a day can cause abdominal pain and
diarrhoea. The EGVM says this is a common side effect, but one that
disappears immediately once the dosage is stopped or lowered. However, it
points to two major trials where people who took 1000 mg a day for five
years reported no adverse reactions whatsoever.
The FSA states that doses above 1500 mg a day can also cause abdominal pain.
The EGVM says this is most likely to occur if it is taken with antacid
tablets, calcium supplements and milk. However, no adverse reactions were
reported in trials with people supplementing at doses up to 2000 mg a day.
Abdominal problems occur with iron supplements at a potency above 17 mg a
day, says the FSA. Agreed, says the EGVM, but these reactions are more
common at daily doses of 60 mg. Studies push the limits higher, and suggest
that gastro-intestinal problems occur at doses of up to 200 mg a day.
The FSA states that beta-carotene can cause "irreversible harmful effects".
The EGVM said that studies have shown no toxicity in humans, even among
pregnant women. However, trials involving smokers and workers exposed to
asbestos found that they were more likely to develop lung cancer if they
were also taking beta-carotene. So nothing to do with cigarettes and
The FSA puts the same claim of irreversible harmful effects at the door of
zinc. Again, a careful study of the EGVM report fails to find supporting
evidence. It states that zinc can cause reversible abdominal pain, nausea
and vomiting, and very high doses might cause blood disorders in diabetics,
a very small study suggested.
Again, consumers who supplement with manganese can also suffer irreversible
harmful effects, says the FSA. Miners who have inhaled manganese while
working in manganese mines and smelters have contracted Parkinson's disease,
but these are at levels impossible to ingest, says the EGVM. Trials with
supplementation at doses up to 15 mg a day failed to find any adverse
effects among the volunteers.
High doses can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs, says the FSA.
Agreed, says the EGVM, but this occurs when levels of 2000 mg are taken
every day for very long periods. However, this has never been supported by
MARCH & PROTEST:It's the least we can do
The FSA report is based on a very partial (mis)reading of the EGVM study,
but the damage has been done, it seems. So what can you, a concerned
consumer, do about it? In short, you MUST join our organisation, the Health
Freedom Movement, in its protest march in central London on Sunday, June 15.
We're meeting in Hyde Park (north Carriage Drive) from 11am, and we'll be
setting off for Trafalgar Square at 12 noon.
As you know, WDDTY is a for-profit publishing house, but we feel so strongly
about this that we have given a great deal of our time and expertise to
support the movement. Sadly, our efforts have not been matched by the
nutritional industry (which, instead, is happy to fall in line with the EU
guidelines), and retailers such as Holland & Barrett and GNC have refused to
put up our posters, or tell its customers about our march.
We've depending entirely on small contributions from consumers, and it's for
you that we are continuing the fight. Please support us. Two weeks after
the march, Parliament will vote to decide whether the UK will ratify the
first of the EU directives. Let's show the politicians that there are
enough of us who care, and give them the courage to vote "NO".