Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Multivitamins and pill wranglers

The post below reminded me about the big multivitamin study that was carried out earlier this year that I posted a blog article about last quarter: Magic pill.

(T)he study was so large and looked at so many aspects of health that it had a lot of statistical power to detect even a small effect. The study involved more than 160,000 women roughly split between those that took regular multivitamins and those that didn't. Eight years later they looked at a variety of disease incidences, including cancer (almost 10,000 cases) and cruder measures such as total mortality (again almost 10,000 deaths). Not even a hint of a difference.

This confirmed earlier studies by the NIH in 2006:"Most of the studies we examined do not provide strong evidence for beneficial health-related effects of supplements taken singly, in pairs, or in combinations of three or more." And by the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency in 2007: "Vitamin and mineral supplements are not a replacement for good eating habits and supplements are unnecessary for healthy adults who eat a balanced diet."

For an interesting counterpoint consider this posting, Where's my pill wrangler?, from last year.

'Kurzweil does not believe in half measures. He takes 180 to 210 vitamin and mineral supplements a day, so many that he doesn't have time to organize them all himself. So he's hired a pill wrangler, who takes them out of their bottles and sorts them into daily doses, which he carries everywhere in plastic bags.'

Kurzweil believes that radical technological advances will be made throughout the 21st century, and that many of those advances will benefit the field of medicine. Kurzweil has thus focused himself towards following a maximally healthy lifestyle to heighten his odds of living to see the day when science can make him immortal. His opinion on vitamin and health supplements is to take virtually anything that MIGHT have a positive effect even if the evidence is weak PROVIDED that the evidence is strong that it does no harm.

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